THE SKY is the limit for our new ruckwoman Bridie Winbanks.
Joining the Demons in the off-season, the 180cm tall youngster has been a revelation in the red and blue, proving she made the right choice when she faced a tough choice about her footballing future.
“I was torn between staying with Essendon or starting a new journey at Casey," Winbanks said.
“I came down to one or two trainings… I loved the trainings and I loved the Club… So, I decided to make the change.”
Casey Demons fans are already thrilled at having Winbanks lining up in the red and blue for the opening bounce this season.
The 18-year-old has quickly become a dominant force in the VFLW averaging 22.3 hit outs per contest this season giving the Demons midfielders first opportunities for clearances, while for Winbanks, she feels like she continues to improve with every game she plays.
“I feel like even over the past three games, not only have I developed a lot as a player individually,” Winbanks said.
“But also the entire midfield group has grown even in the past three games.”
One of the major reasons Winbanks credits for the rapid development in not only her own game but also the entire team, is the squad’s collective buy-in of the season motto of ‘Stronger Together’.
By sacrificing for the greater good, Winbanks is excited about the instant results the Demons have enjoyed.
“We are all working together being one tight group,” Winbanks said.
“No matter if someone is down on the ground, we pick them up.
“If someone does something wrong, we all get around them.
“If someone gets a goal, then the whole team celebrates.
“One individual doesn’t make the team… We are better as a team, not as individuals.”
The results are showing on the field, as the Demons are undefeated in the early season, recording an impressive come from behind victory against Essendon to begin the season and two dominant victories against Carlton and Williamstown in the subsequent weeks.
Winbanks is thriving in the Casey system already and is excited for the challenges ahead this season.
“I am looking forward to going up against AFLW-listed players,” Winbanks said.
“Challenging myself against them to know what I have to do to improve myself to be at that level.
“Then having the opportunity to compete with them if I was able to play against them at a high level.
“My aim is to be drafted into the AFLW at the end of this year.”
But Winbanks is showing maturity beyond her years showing a willingness to continue working on her skills and to build out her game.
“A goal I have been working on is getting movement through the forward line and taking more marks,” Winbanks said.
“Becoming a strong leading forward, not just a ruck.
“So developing more skills to go be able to go forward and hopefully kick more goals.”
She might be in the perfect situation to help her achieve her football dream because of the training approach taken by head coach Damien Keeping and his coaching team.
“I knew Damo from him coaching me during Victoria Metro,” Winbanks said.
“I knew he was a strong coach with a focus on developing skills, so I have enjoyed the majority of our focus being on football skills.
“I think it has definitely helped us with our performance in the early season.”
It has been a tremendous rise for Winbanks in the past few years since receiving a fateful call from a friend to fill-in in her football team.
“I used to play basketball, from when I was five until I was 15,” Winbanks said.
“But a friend called one day and needed an extra player at her local football game.
“I said I’d fill in and see how it goes… I dominated in the ruck, so I was like… ‘Wow, I can actually play!’
"Ever since then, I fell in love and left basketball behind and moved to play football.”
It has been an upward trajectory for Winbanks since that day, making the Victoria Metro team, then joining the Sandringham Dragons, before joining the Oakleigh Chargers, where she was recruited to Essendon from in 2018.
The next step in Winbanks’ evolution is continuing to learn the nuisances of the game.
“At the start, I use to jump in the ruck like how a basketballer would jump,” Winbanks said.
“Now having the coaches stress at Casey about having the correct fundamentals, we go out before training and work on our individual skills.
"So, I have now learnt how to protect myself and not open my body up which left my body unprotected.
“I come away with less bruises now than I did before.”
Winbanks gives the Casey Demons another leader on the field after being part of the Oakleigh Chargers leadership group in her youth football, but despite her young age she continues to challenge herself to be more vocal on the field for her teammates.
“I love the Club, it’s more a family, we are all really tight together,” Winbanks said.
“Now and then I am a little bit shy, but I definitely have worked on forcing myself to come out of my comfort zone at trainings and in the game.
“I do like taking on that leadership role now and then.”
While the vocal leadership is still a work in progress, for now, Winbanks is letting her game do the talking.
With an exciting future ahead of her, Winbanks is flourishing for Casey in 2019, for Demons fans hopefully for she continues to dominate for a long time yet.