Caitlin Wendland - an Exciting Start
"I would say just go out there and try your hardest. You’d be very surprised at what you can learn and take into to improve and develop your game or as a player but most importantly just have fun and play your natural game."
Round Five of the South Australian National Football League Women’s (SANFLW) competition saw Central District claim a landmark win. As one of the two newest additions to the competition, the Bulldogs have been competitive over the last few seasons but, with the exception of Norwood, have gone without a major landmark victory.
This was of course until Round Five 2021, when the Bulldogs steamrolled one of our early picks as the flag favourites, West Adelaide. While this twenty-two-point win was special for the club, it was also special for one player in particular.
Caitlin Wendland, one of three sisters that joined the Bulldogs for 2021, made her SANFLW debut during this Round Five clash.
“I was so excited and nervous before the game because it was my first game, and I couldn’t wait to get out there and play.”
“But even though I was playing well, in the back of my mind I wondered if I was making an impact or was I doing enough on the field to help my teammates.
“After the game, I couldn’t have been happier, it was an amazing game and win. I’m so thankful to be a part of this team and to be surrounded by such an amazing group of girls.”
Finishing with a total of twelve touches, four clearances and three marks, it was certainly a decent first outing. However, what makes this more impressive is the fact that “the Central District Football Club is the first club we have been a part of”.
“… Straight away everyone made you feel welcomed and being someone new to the club I felt very much at home and I couldn’t wait to be out there playing with all the girls.”
“… I have very thankful for the opportunity they have given us to fulfil our passion of playing the game and I’m looking forward to developing and improving as a player on and off the field.”
Prior to 2021, her sporting life was split between netball and cricket.
“I started playing netball around 8 years old as a young kid wanting to run around with my friends and have fun. But until 10 or 11 years old my interest in sport started to change then I found a great interest in the game of cricket.”
“… I started off playing with the boys’ year 4/5 and 6/7 cricket teams, then found out about the Northern District Cricket Club.
“We started playing there in 2015/16 in B Grade then worked are way up into A Grade and had the opportunity to play under 15s and 18s state cricket teams playing for South Australia.”
Yet even while she was busy impressing in the world of cricket, Caitlin still had a strong interest in football.
“… I have grown up watching and supporting football. My whole family goes for Port Adelaide in the AFL and SANFL, so we go to every game.”
“I have always had a football to kick around with my sisters whether it’s at home in the backyard or an oval.
“For many years, my sisters and I have had countless of conversations talking about playing football, but we just never quite followed through with the idea of playing.
“But then over the years AFLW and SANFLW created so many opportunities for many girls to play, we knew this could be a great chance for us to finally do just that.”
Once they decided to finally give football a try, the three Wendland sisters, Caitlin, Jessica and Kasey, made their way to Central District for their SANFLW trials late last year.
“Leading up to the first trials we were feeling a little nervous, but mostly excited to have an opportunity to finally be out there on the field and playing.”
“We spoke about playing for so long it was a great feeling to finally be doing just that. As players we have different strengths and weaknesses in the game.
“We wanted to give it our very best and see how far we could go and hopefully the coaches liked something in our game or how we play.”
Those years spent watching footy and kicking in the backyard with her sisters must have paid off, as Caitlin, along with her two sisters, all successfully made it into Central’s squad for the 2021 season.
But of course, this came with its own challenges since the Wendland sisters were new to football, and therefore they had to decide whereabouts on the field they would line up. But she believes their playing positions “came quite naturally”.
“… Just the way we play the game and the type of roles we would like to play. We all have different set of skills. I guess some influence on players we have grown up watching plays a small role where we base our game on.”
“For me personally I feel so comfortable and at home in midfield just something about playing in the position everything comes to naturally to me and as I develop and improve as a player I think I can create a huge impact in the game.”
Sister duos in the SANFLW is nothing new, think Tamsyn and Mia Morriss, Jaimi and Jaida Tabb, and even recently, Nikki and Amy Gore. Yet triplets is certainly a first.
Getting to play with your two sisters in the top tier of women’s footy in the state is “amazing” to say the least—and it is something that Caitlin is very proud and thankful to be doing.
“… I’m so thankful I have been given this great opportunity to be playing alongside them.”
“It is a friendly sibling rivalry between us, but we are very competitive, trying to find ways to compete with each other.”
“When we are playing together we know exactly what the other person is going to do and feed of each other’s energy.”
So what is the next step for this exciting, young Bulldog?
“I would like to try and make it to the AFLW, but I know I have a long way to go before I can get to that kind of level, but I’m happy to be with the Central District Football Club and eventually work my way up.”
Considering her debut performance, Caitlin certainly has enough potential to develop into a major part of the Bulldogs' side--and could even one day progress even higher. But until then, her and the rest of the Wendland trio will continue to hold a cult-level status.
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None of these photographs are owned by MWM; all images have been supplied by the player and have been personally shot.