Monique Conti bounces back to underpin grand final victory

Bulldogs Monique Conti. Picture Shawn Smits.

Monique Conti was a risk worth taking for the Western Bulldogs.

The western suburbs star was drafted with pick three for her potential of being a big-game player and she delivered on the occasion that matters most, claiming the best-on-ground in the Bulldogs’ six-point grand final win over the Brisbane Lions at Ikon Park on Saturday.

Bulldogs coach Paul Groves knew he had a special talent in Conti, but getting her up to speed after she had played a long basketball season culminating in a grand final series with the Melbourne Boomers in the Women’s National Basketball League was going to be the toughest part.

“We knew that because of her basketball, she’d probably slip a little bit in the draft,” Groves said.

“We were really keen to have those picks, take Izzy [Isabel Huntington] at pick one and then for Mon to come three and you’ve seen [Collingwood’s] Chloe’s [Molley] season at two, so it’s a pretty special little bunch.

“She was always going to be markedly better from round one through to round seven.

“Even in her basketball, she’s a big game player and I had that feeling from her.”

Conti was electrifying in the third quarter of the grand final for the Bulldogs.

The Rising Star nominee turned the game in her team’s favour, racking up possessions at will across the midfield to be a key driving force along with star Emma Kearney.

Conti’s dominance came after a bit of self-evaluating at half-time.

“I had to adjust to the wet weather footy and I wasn’t doing that in the first half personally,” she said.

“I had to lift my game and try and get the ball on the ground because that’s where it was.

“It falls into the advantage of the smaller players, so I thought I just had to adjust a little bit in that sense and be on the bottom of the packs a bit more.”

Bulldogs Ellie Blackburn, Kirsten McLeod and Monique Conti. Picture Shawn Smits.

Conti capped her quarter with a goal that extended the lead to a game-high 13 points at three quarter-time. It was an opportunistic piece of play from the 18-year-old.

It was a big day for Conti to capture an AFL Women’s premiership medal.

The disappointment of losing the WNBL grand final series is still fresh in her mind, but this has undoubtedly brought her joy.

“Coming off a WNBL championship grand final series and then losing in the third game, it was really tough for me,” Conti said.

“Then sort of to switch off from basketball mode and come into football with a great group of girls, great coaches and coaching staff as well, just have that seven, eight weeks focusing on footy and trying to make it all the way and coming to grand final week, it was there up for grabs and we all did it together.”

Bulldogs Monique Conti. Picture Shawn Smits.