BECOMING a key defender in the Casey Demons 2019 squad has been a revelation for Kaila Bentvelzen.
After starring as a leading forward for the Demons in 2018, the 22-year-old has transitioned to the backlines for head coach Damien Keeping this season, with the shift resulting in immediate positive results seeing Bentvelzen playing the best football of her young career.
It has been a long journey for Bentvelzen getting to this point, overcoming a major injury forcing her out of sports for an extended period, but before the injury like many other young female footballers, Kaila found herself unable to continue with the sport she loves growing up.
It wasn’t until the opportunity to attend the open day for the Casey Demons which sparked her desire to purse her football dreams again.
“I started playing with the boys in under 10s, playing footy through to the under 14s,” Bentvelzen said.
“But then I was too old to play with the boys any further as there was no girls team around my area, so I had to give up football.
“So, I continued to play basketball and netball, until I sustained a really bad injury which kept me out of sports for three and a half years.
“In 2017, I decided to purse my dreams of playing football again… I decided to try out for Casey.”
After impressing at the open day, Bentvelzen was selected to become part of the inaugural Demons squad and had a stellar first season in the VFLW competition.
Splitting her time as a leading forward and at times in the ruck, Kaila was able to showcase her speed on leads and her dominant aerial play finishing with 11 goals in 14 games often going up against more experienced players holding her own during an extraordinary first campaign.
Already this season the team is showing incredible improvement, but Bentvelzen is excited about the way the Club and the squad continues to evolve and how the team continues to mature even more in the rounds to come.
“The first year was a bit of trial and error, but it was amazing from the start,” Bentvelzen said.
“Everyone at the club has been so supportive and encouraging.
“This year, there were about eight to ten girls left over from the team from last year.
“We have a new bunch of girls who have signed up with this year.
“The ones from last year have stepped up and become really good leaders to support the girls who have made that step up from whatever league they have come from to the VFLW.”
One of the reasons the squad has bonded so well has been the Club’s embrace of the motto ‘Stronger Together’ getting behind the common goal.
“We are like one big family, not just on the footy field but around the Club too,” Bentvelzen said.
“Everyone is really supportive of one another.
“Everyone backs one another… It shows on gameday when we play.”
It has been a sensational start for the Demons, jumping out to a 3-1 start on the early season, thanks in large part to the outstanding defensive focus of the team holding opponents to an average of 21.8 points per game.
Bentvelzen has become an influential part of Casey’s new-look defensive group along with Sarah Lampard, Hannah Dyson, Georgia McLean, to name a few of the imposing group of defenders; Bentvelzen credits the hot start and defensive focus to how well the backs group has bonded this season.
“I think we communicate really well on the field,” Bentvelzen said.
“We have really good structure… We are just supportive of one another.
“If someone does anything good, we clap and support each other.
“We get around each other, no matter what… Everyone is learning, everyone is going to make mistakes.
“Even if someone makes a mistake, we just pick each other up… But we support each other through it all.”
Bentvelzen talks with a maturity beyond her years and has the makings of a future captain, or a future coach, something she has had experienced before.
During her extended injury period, Kaila helped establish the Leongatha Parrots Girls’ Football Team in her hometown, which not only allowed Bentvelzen to get her footy fix when she couldn’t be on the field, but now she has returned as a player, she better understands her coaches’ instructions because of the experience.
“I find that when I am being coached now, it is easier to understand and interpret what the coaches are trying to get across to me,” Bentvelzen said.
“Sometimes what they say it might sound a bit harsh but they’re just there to help and it’s impactful for my game.”
Bentvelzen is committed to developing her game and her craft all with a laser-focus towards achieving her goal, even prepared to go the extra mile to make her dream happen.
“I live in Leongatha, so it takes over an hour of driving [to get to Casey Fields],” Bentvelzen said.
“But my ultimate goal is to make it to the AFLW.
“So, I’m prepared for the challenge to achieve my dream.”
The Demons season doesn’t get any easier as Casey welcomes Collingwood to Casey Fields on Sunday, which poses to be another major challenge for the squad, but Bentvelzen is ready for the test.
“They have a pretty stacked AFLW-listed side,” Bentvelzen said.
“It will be a good challenge for all of us girls.
“I’m definitely up for the challenge.”
Spoken like a true defender, knowing Kaila Bentvelzen is lining up in the Casey backlines means the Demons faithful know their team are always in with a chance for the victory.