After a competitive loss to Melbourne in Round 1 of the AFLW season, SUNS midfielder Bess Keaney is confident the women’s team has the drive to keep developing throughout 2021.

Overcoming a number of hurdles, including a broken leg in 2019 before the 2020 VFLW season was called off due to COVID-19, before arriving at the SUNS, Keaney said the structures were in place to create a successful team from day one.

“It’s exceptional here at the Gold Coast. The coaches and the existing girls on the list have obviously set a standard where you really own your own development week on week,” Keaney said.

“We’re encouraged to clip our own vision from the game, look at it really critically about not only where we can improve but what we do well, so when we do things well it’s not by accident, we know how to replicate that each week.

“I’m a 29 year old debutant but girls like Serene Watson… seeing how she goes about her development and girls of that age, they’ve really taken all of us debutants under the wing and shown us what we need to do to get better each week.”

Another who Keaney has learnt from is cult figure Sarah Perkins, who she quarantined with, upon relocating to Queensland to fulfil her AFLW dream.

“Perko’s been just incredible, just the way she’s come in and had an impact on the group, we served our quarantine time together so we came up on the plane from Melbourne together and both stepped into the unknown, not knowing what to expect,” Keaney said.

“I had the luxury of really being able to fly under the radar whereas Perko, having an AFLW career already and is such a celebrated figure, she comes with a lot more expectation but seeing her own that and really draw on her experience to bring some of the younger girls under her wing, has been fantastic.

“Getting to see her do that on Saturday and show what we see all the time, she plays with confidence has got incredible foot skills, it was just awesome to see her do it, I’m so proud of her.”

The thrill of stepping onto Metricon for the first time as an AFLW player didn’t overwhelm Keaney who shone in the first quarter, picking up nine possessions and setting up the first goal of the game.

“Having watched the first couple of AFLW games of the round, Carlton and Collingwood in particular on Thursday night, it was such a frenetic pace that first quarter so I think we really geared ourselves up to know that you’ve got to go hard early and it doesn’t matter if you spend your tickets, they’ll come back. That was my mindset for the first quarter,” she said.

“(The fifty metre penalties) were lapses in the game, I think we’d be unwise as to dwell on that, I think we really should be looking at a lot of the positives from the game, we were able to play our way for really a good three quarters … which is a real positive against Melbourne.”