FIVE training sessions a week, and countless hours on the road and on the football field have helped keep Gippsland Power co-captain Tyla Hanks on her toes.
One of the top prospects in this year’s competition, Hanks is a member of the AFLW Academy, and is already training with Carlton’s VFLW side. The 18 year-old university student spends two nights a week training with the Blues either side of suiting up alongside her Power teammates in Gippsland. An Academy gym session and an Acceleration Melbourne training session make it a full week for the talented Beaconsfield product.
“Monday, Wednesdays I have Carlton VFL training,” Hanks said. “Tuesdays I’m here (Morwell). “I have one gym session with the Academy that we do on our own, and I’ve got Acceleration Melbourne training as well, so I do that once a week.”
Hanks has been a key member of the Power outfit, shining as a bottom-ager last season when two of her teammates – Darcy Guttridge and Holly Whitford – were both drafted to Collingwood in the AFLW Draft. Hoping to follow in their footsteps into the elite environment, Hanks has enjoyed the experience of being a member of the AFLW Academy.
“It was a really good experience, they always are,” she said of the week-long camp and practice game against Geelong VFLW. “To prepare you for what it’s like at an elite level, so that was really enjoyable, and now to come back to a local level.”
In her first game back, Hanks was named second best in Gippsland’s close loss to the unbeaten Northern Knights on Saturday at Morwell Recreation Reserve. As has been the case with many top players, Hanks never has an easy day, going head to head in the midfield with Northern captain Maddy Brancatisano in one of the better head-to-heads for the season.
Northern had a six-goal lead at the final break and all the momentum. In the first five rounds, the Knights had booted 18.6 (114) to their opponents’ score of 1.3 (9) which could have spelled danger signs for the Power. Instead, Gippsland’s “intent” changed the game and the Power booted 3.3 to 0.0 in the last quarter to draw within 15 points before the final siren sounded.
“I think it was a bit disappointing,” Hanks said. “Probably the first three quarters we thought we could bring it to them more than we did, but to finish the way we did in the last quarter, we were really happy.”
Hanks said the Power got the game more on their terms in the final quarter which resulted in the momentum swing.
“Our intent (changed),” she said. “We weren’t second to the ball and we were winning those 50/50s that we weren’t winning in the first three quarters. That pressure that we brought up that was probably the difference.”
While the loss was disappointing, it was the first loss the Power had suffered since round one. Since a heavy defeat to Oakleigh Chargers, Gippsland won three of a possible four games, drawing with the then-unbeaten Murray Bushrangers in the other game. Hanks said the team was excited by the improved results.
“Yeah (it’s been) really good,” she said. “I think compared to last year it’s been a really good step-up for us and to get a few wins on the board has been really good.”
Hanks said she felt the depth within the TAC Cup Girls competition had increased and it was showing on match days.
“I think the depth in every team has really grown,” she said. “We lost some really talented players like Chloe Molloy and [Monique] Conti and stuff like that, but even with us it’s a big improvement to see that there’s depth with girls that are 15, 16. “There’s more coming up younger than that.”
There are just three weeks remaining in the TAC Cup Girls season for 10 of the 12 teams, with Gippsland still well positioned to finish in the top half. Hanks said the focus was on finishing the season strong, with a big month to follow.
“Once this is finished, the Vic Country tryouts will happen,” she said. “I think it’s like a two-week turnaround and we go up to Gold Coast and see what will happen up there.”
Gippsland faces Eastern Ranges, GWV Rebels and Sandringham Dragons in the final three rounds, a big task against some of the better sides in the competition.
“If we try and bring that pressure that we did in the last quarter today (Saturday) and what we did to Murray and stuff like that,” Hanks said. “Then there’s teams we’ve got coming up; they haven’t really had that from teams like us, so that’s probably our advantage.”
Despite being a member of the AFLW Academy and looming Vic Country squad, Hanks is always looking to improve her game.
“Definitely my inside mid stuff,” Hanks said. “I used to be a bit of an outside player, so working on that and just run and carry the ball. “(A) bit of endurance running as well would be handy as well before the draft.”