CONFIDENCE in her own abilities is what allows Western Bulldogs youngster Sarah Hartwig to take on the toughest players in the competition, no matter what position she is required to play.
It’s her combination of strength and speed that makes Hartwig such a wonderful asset to the Dogs, but importantly it’s a willingness to do her homework on different opponents that makes her a tough one-on-one match-up.
“Knowing what to do for different players, like obviously if you’ve got a stronger player, use your speed, if you’ve got a speedy player, use your strength, push them off the line and work with that,” Hartwig told womens.afl.
“Just knowing how to play on a player makes it a lot easier, and it’s less scary for yourself.”
Hartwig was taken with pick No.11 at the 2020 NAB AFLW Draft and has missed just one game since arriving at the club, playing in a variety of positions in her 15 matches.
Comfortable as an athletic rebounding defender, the 19-year-old has spent some time on the wing and more recently in the forward line.
“I had one training session where we were missing a lot of our forwards and I was like ‘oh yeah, I’ll have to go up forward’,” Hartwig said. “I think I kicked three goals in like four minutes, and it was just a lot of fun for me.”
“I’ve learned a lot in the past two games anyway, just in positioning and knowing my role.”
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His willingness to do whatever the club needs on the field has also been needed off-field this year as the Dogs have worked through one of the most disrupted fixtures of the season. For Hartwig, a focus on recovery has assisted in getting through four games in 16 days and, luckily for her, sleep is easy to come by.
“At our club the most important things are meals and sleep, and sleep is super easy for me. I always just get a full night’s sleep which is so great and I’m so grateful for,” Hartwig said.
Added to this, the teenager is studying Exercise and Sport Science at university, with an interest in strength and conditioning, and she admits that her footy career is helping her excel in class.
But the physical isn’t everything. Hartwig knows that mindset has a big say in how both individuals and teams approach games, and believes that a positive mentality has been a driver of the Dogs’ recent run of form, which included a tense one-point victory over ladder leaders Adelaide.
“Leading into it my mindset was ‘we almost beat Freo, we can totally beat Adelaide, we definitely have a chance here’,” Hartwig said.
“If you go in having doubts you’re not going to perform as well as you would hope.”
And that mindset has carried the Dogs through that tough condensed fixture and saw a final-quarter resurgence against Gold Coast on Tuesday night. In that last term, it was previous good performances that Hartwig was keeping front of mind.
“We beat Adelaide, we can do anything, that’s our mindset.,” she said.
But a draw doesn’t cut it, and coach Nathan Burke will not let his Dogs rest on their laurels.
“Burkey’s message after the game was ‘lesson learned’. Play the whole game and we won’t have to come back at the end.”
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