Category: Feature Articles

Three years of football, three big opportunities for Ranges co-captain, Charlotte Wilson

EASTERN Ranges co-captain, Charlotte Wilson is only into her third year of football, but has made the most of the opportunities that have come her way.

In this short period of time, she was asked to play for and co-captain the Eastern Ranges, represented Vic Metro and on top of that, made her Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s debut for the Southern Saints. The 17 year-old reflects on her journey, as she went from a casual school footballer to an elite VFL Women’s footballer.

“I first started playing at school a few years ago but I never really played local,” Wilson said. “Then last year I started playing TAC for Eastern Ranges and I’d touched a footy like twice in my life. “This year I was kind of more, not expecting it, but felt comfortable (playing for Eastern).”

Into only her second year of the program, Wilson was named co-captain along with Emerson Woods. The defender/ruck was privileged to receive the opportunity and loved having the support of Woods during the year.

“It was exciting but I think it’s a good opportunity to just bring everyone else up and help everyone else out,” Wilson said. “It was good to have like someone else to rely on instead of just feeling it all myself. We could just take turns to do everything.”

She and Woods led the side to six wins and three losses this year, and although the wins were enjoyable, Wilson admits that the losses were a bit disappointing.

“The few losses were a bit disappointing but the wins were good for everyone to get up and about,” the 17 year-old said. “But I think they kind of made the losses hurt more.”

Wilson herself has had a personal win, being selected to represent Vic Metro at the AFL Women’s National Under 18 Championships. She is not only excited by the opportunity but is also looking forward to furthering her knowledge and skills.

The Ranges co-captain had the opportunity to do so a fortnight ago, donning the big ‘V’ at GMHBA Stadium and having a solid performance. She followed this up by debuting for the Southern Saints a week later, as she continues to make the most of her opportunities to play Aussie Rules.

Wilson’s week rotates between basketball and football, as she combines her two sporting loves during her final year of high school. But now with the AFLW up and running – and booming –  Wilson believes that football is the right sporting path for her to follow.

“I’m leaning towards footy because it’s given me more opportunities than basketball has in my shorter period of time,” she said. “It’s achievable (playing AFLW), it’s there. “It’s not just something that’s up in the clouds that you’re never going to reach but if you work hard, the pathway is there.”

Mounting a case: Shelley Heath hopes to follow in fellow Stingrays draftees’ footsteps

WHEN girls football returned to the Mornington Peninsula, Mount Martha’s Shelley Heath took up the love she had for the sport when she was a child. Since then, the running half-back/wing has been an important part of the Dandenong Stingrays line-up since coming into the team with its inception in the TAC Cup Girls last season.

“I started Auskick when I was about six and I stopped for a while,” Heath said. said. “Then I started back up in 2015 when the girls league down in Mornington started to come about which was really exciting.”

Heath said the social aspect of being a part of a football club, as well as the physicality on the field, were the key reasons she decided to forge a football career.

“I really love the tackling side of it all,” she said. “The physicality is one of the biggest things I enjoy and I just enjoy meeting new people and enjoy my teammates.”

Since joining the Stingrays, Heath said her game has come a long way thanks to the work by the coaches and staff at Dandenong.

“It’s (the Stingrays program is) really good,” she said. “I’ve been there for two years and I’ve just developed so much through that program, the coaches have been amazing. “The whole program has really helped me with my football.”

Her clear strength is her speed and endurance, which she said helps when she is running up and down a wing, mowing down opponents in strong tackles. She is still learning how to position herself around the field better, but is pleased with how she has developed thus far.

Having been working hard with Southern Saints on the track in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, Heath spoke of her desire to play seniors, a dream that will come true tomorrow at Skybus Stadium when the Saints face the unbeaten Northern Territory Thunder. Her dream is clear – getting drafted into the AFLW at some stage.

“The St Kilda VFL (Southern Saints) have picked me up and I’ve been training with them so hopefully I’m on the verge of getting a game with them which should be good,” she said. “After that if not getting drafted, just keep with St Kilda and hopefully get drafted there in 2020.”

The recent top 10 draftees Jacob Weitering and Hunter Clark, as well as Tom De Koning – who went at pick 30 last year – both hail from Heath’s junior club, affectionately known as the ‘Mounties’. She said the drafting of players she knew gave her inspiration for her own football journey.

“It’s kind of pushed me along thinking that I have a chance to get drafted this year which is exciting,” she said.

In fact, her favourite football memory comes from her time at the Mounties, kicking a goal in the grand final in 2017. Outside of football she is keen to become a physiotherapist and said the balance between football and school has been a challenge, but one she is willing to take up.

“Yeah Year 12 is pretty stressful, pretty big,” she said. “Especially with all the football around it. “But I’m keeping on top of things which is good.”

Heath said the stronger bodies at Southern Saints training had helped her confidence and she was hoping to put her best foot forward for Vic Country on the Gold Coast in a couple of weeks.

“It’s really good (training with the Saints),” she said. “I’ve learnt a heap through training and the girls are so much more confident with everything and the bigger bodies have really helped out my footy as well. “I just want to make the (Vic Country) team and just play as best as I can to get looked at, and that’s probably the biggest thing.”

Committed Dunn has AFLW in her sights

GIPPSLAND Power co-captain, Amy Dunn balances Year 12, works three times a week, plays footy and does her own training to improve her game. This is on top of long hours of travelling and homework, but Dunn reiterates that balancing all these things is something she has to do in order to pursue her football career further.

Dunn came into the Gippsland program as a timid young player, but has ended the program as the Power’s 2018 co-captain. She admits that she has come a long way since walking through the doors at the Power.

“I didn’t really know what it (Gippsland Power) was,” the Power ruck said. “I just enjoyed my footy and I thought maybe I could try out there. “I didn’t know what to expect. “I guess I just tried my hardest and had no expectations for myself and just watched my development continue.”

Coming into the program, Dunn had already been playing Aussie Rules for a while, but was keen to develop her skills further. She says that once she got to the Power, she didn’t look back.

“So I started (playing footy) when I was seven in Auskick,” the Gippsland co-captain said. “I started pretty young and played with the boys through until U10s, 12s, 14s and then I played for the Youth Girls at my local club. “I then found the Power and watched them develop and just stayed with Power since then.”

Once she got to know the older players in the program, Dunn desired to follow in their footsteps. Seeing them play and train made her want to improve as a footballer.

“I was probably the quietest girl there and I kind of looked up to them,” the 17 year-old said. “I aspired to be like them so that’s what drove me to be better.”

In her final year of the program, Dunn still applies that same determination to her football, putting in extra runs to try and better her endurance. Getting up in the morning and going for a run can often be a struggle for anyone, but for Dunn, it’s something she has fitted into her busy routine to fulfill her aspiration to become an AFLW player.

She is also committed to her studies, admitting that she stays behind on a Friday afternoon at school to catch up on homework. On top of that, instead of having a lazy Sunday, Dunn gets up early to do some homework before she heads off to work.

For now, she earns an income by working at her local IGA, with the self-proclaimed “checkout chick” admitting she would like to make money and enjoy her future by doing two things that she has her sights set on.

“Something I want to do in my future is to study at university and play AFLW or VFLW in Melbourne,” Dunn said. “I still want to continue playing footy.”

Even though her time at the Power is over, Dunn is currently training with Vic Country ahead of the AFL Women’s National Under 18 Championships. She featured in the side’s first game of the tournament against Vic Metro, and kicked a blinder of a goal from the boundary line, proving that hard work does indeed pay off.

Brancatisano relishes Knights’ captaincy role

NORTHERN Knights captain, Maddy Brancatisano enjoyed her leadership role throughout the TAC Cup Girls season, as she led her side to the inaugural TAC Cup Girls Grand Final.

Her sister, Lily captained the Knights last year and now plays for Geelong in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition. But despite the family name, Brancatisano did not expect to be handed the captaincy this year.

“I just did not think about it (being captain), it didn’t even come to my mind,” she said. “Then I got asked, I was so flattered. “It was awesome to lead those girls.”

The Knights midfielder ultimately led her side to a near perfect record, winning against every team except the Geelong Falcons. Leading a young side, the 18 year-old was initially focused on their development, but admits that she was able to develop her leadership as well.

“Being able to lead everyone and just direct them around, it helps also my confidence too,” Brancatisano said.

This certainly showed on the field, as the 18 year-old led by example with her clean hands, fierce tackling and elite ball-use. Not only did she benefit from the captaincy, but she also benefited from bonding with her teammates. Brancatisano says there was rarely a moment that she didn’t enjoy in their company. 

“I don’t think there was a session where we didn’t have fun or enjoy it,” the Knights midfielder said. “We got so close, it was like family.”

She believes that her captaincy role enabled her to showcase her own skills, which was well-recognised throughout the season. Brancatisano was named in the best four times and was rewarded with a place in the Vic Metro squad for the National AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. Amidst her TAC Cup journey, the 18 year-old admits that playing for Vic Metro never really crossed her mind.

“You don’t really think about it (playing Nationals) in TAC Cup, it’s more just about the winning and developing,” Brancatisano said.  “When I got the invitation, I was rapt.”

With nationals football now on her busy plate, Brancatisano is prioritising Aussie Rules over her second love, basketball. But despite being in Year 12 this year, the Knights captain was reluctant to give up the sport she has been playing since she was a child.

“I’ve been doing it (basketball) my whole life and I’ve just grown up around it,” Brancatisano said. “I’ve never really been selected for many state things or anything so I’ve just been enjoying it and playing because I love it. “But at the moment, playing SEABL (South East Australian Basketball League), it’s such a high level so I’m rapt to be able to do that, even if I sit on the bench and play a few minutes. “Not sure if I’ll do it next year with football, but I’ll just see where that goes.”

She has a lot of football ahead of her, as she is training with Carlton’s Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s side and is about to hop on a plane to the Gold Coast to play for Vic Metro.

Even though she loves her sport, Brancatisano still has her sights set on university next year, but would love to continue to pursue her bright football career.

Keeping Tabs: Standout players from Round 13

ROUND 13 came with a surprising amount of top first-year performers, given the bye for six teams. The youngsters from Fremantle stepped up again, and Geelong’s Tim Kelly remained at his usual high standards. 

Ed Richards

Richards starred in his clash against Port Adelaide, kicking a team-high three goals for the game in the second quarter alone. Before the game, Richards had no score to his name, but stood up for the Doggies despite poor kicking accuracy. At the end of the second quarter, he put through a difficult set shot on the boundary from 50 metres out. Typically playing out of the backline, Richards showed us what he can do as an attacking player. With five score involvements and four inside 50s, his offensive was in full flight, and with extra efforts in his 17 pressure acts and three one percenters, Richards presented us a complete footballer in the making. I would recommend the Doggies playing to his strengths to build him up for next season.

Tim Kelly

Kelly kept his elite form in a tough fight against the reigning Premiers at the MCG. Shaping up with all kinds of class alongside Joel Selwood, Gary Ablett and Patrick Dangerfield, the South Australian collected 14 contested possessions, seven uncontested, with a 71 per cent disposal efficiency. He dominated the clearances with four from the centre and three out of stoppages, getting clean hands to the ball first and ripping it cleanly from congestion. He managed to impact Geelong’s scoreboard despite not hitting it himself with four inside 50’s and four score involvements. The pressure he applied to Richmond summarise what he brings to the Geelong midfield. With grit and power, Kelly laid six tackles with 23 pressure acts. He adds necessary elements to Geelong’s classy midfield with his power around congestion.

Hunter Clark

The Rising Star Nominee for Round 13 put on another impressive display in defence. He finished with 18 possessions and an 82 per cent disposal efficiency. His clean footy and immense pressure may have been the difference between a few possible Suns’ goals. It was his five intercept possessions, six tackles and four one percenters that walled off the Suns. He is slowly developing into a hungry, young player, a quality lost on him at the beginning of the season. There have been a few weeks in a row now that Clark has shone in the backline. In the coming years, Clark could become a promising half-back utility for the Saints, showing more of his run and carry that he demonstrated for the Dandenong Stingrays.

Stefan Giro

In only three games, Giro has already began raising standards for first year players. Gaining most of his possessions off the wing and the forward half, Giro finished his game with an 81 per cent disposal efficiency and 17 possessions. Though not impacting the board directly, he had five score involvements, two goal assists and three inside 50s. The most impressive of Giro’s stats comes from his pressure acts, racking up an enormous 32 with five tackles (two inside 50s). The Fremantle first-year players have been immense thus far, so Giro is lucky to grow along side some other promising youths. There’s a chance we could be looking at the AFL’s next super team if they continue to develop as they are.

Lochie O’Brien

Despite suffering Fremantle’s onslaught, O’Brien managed to make an impact. O’Brien was able to still get plenty of the football, collecting 17 possessions with a 71 per cent disposal efficiency. Given Fremantle’s forward pressure, the youngster’s success with the football was impressive. He remained composed and confident, and despite spending 73 per cent in the defensive half, had five score involvements. The well-rounded performer had three rebound s, three inside 50s, two clearances and 18 pressure acts. O’Brien also had an impressive 370 metres gained, second only on his team to Kade Simpson. He was a top performer for Carlton and should not go unnoticed due to a poor outcome.

Andrew Brayshaw

Brayshaw put on a show away at Etihad Stadium, thriving in Fremantle’s rare dominance. Picking up 13 uncontested possessions and seven contested, the number two pick started to show signs of his TAC Cup standards. He kicked one goal starting up on the wing and contributed to eight score involvements. In certain areas, he fell short with eight turnovers and a 65 per cent disposal efficiency. Brayshaw is showing glimpses of a bright future. He rounded off a fair performance with three clearances, four tackles, three inside 50s, three one percenters and 24 pressure acts.

Charlie Ballard

In a nail-biter at Metricon Stadium, Ballard starred out from the backline. Gaining 94 per cent of his 16 possessions in the defensive half, Ballard finished with 63 per cent disposal efficiency. He contributed to the attack with his four score involvements and two rebounds. He carefully picked his spots and read the attack well, taking much of the uncontested ball. For the game he closed out with a brilliant nine interceptions and three one percenters. Ballard impacted the game through great marking ability and nice read on the incoming footy.

Adam Cerra

Cerra’s performance away from home was far from his greatest for the season, but he injects enough class into the game to beef up his stats and earn his spot. He finished with nine uncontested possessions and five contested. His disposal efficiency finished at 64 per cent, but he earned some redemption with three interceptions. While goalless himself, Cerra had six score involvements and two marks inside 50. He gained plenty of his football  in the defensive 50 and along the wing, laying three tackles with two rebound 50s. Cerra played with a different role out of defence, keeping him unusually weak on the goal front, but the No. 5 played a damaging role nonetheless.

Tom McCartin

McCartin topped his game with six inside 50s, assisting the Swans greatly in there dominant offence. Over half of his possessions were contested,  but had less satisfactory disposal efficiency at 69 per cent. Regardless, his efforts were still an improvement from his average nine possessions and a 56 percent disposal efficiency. McCartin’s performance lift came through in all facets. He laid three tackles with four one percenters. McCartin put pressure on defensive plays and demonstrated flexibility in how he affected a linkup. It was disappointing that a forward hadn’t kicked a goal in such an important game, but he managed three score involvements and a direct assist.

Fantastic Five: Memorable moments from the weekend

FROM the future talent to the modern day match-winners, there was plenty to like about the last weekend of football.

Future AFL Women’s stars on show

Without a doubt, the highlight of the weekend was watching the bright future of the AFL Women’s with both the Under 16s and Under 18s strutting their stuff at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong. Vic Metro won both clashes against Vic Country, but it was the depth of talent across a variety of positions which will no doubt leave plenty of recruiters smiling as they accrue draft picks over the next few years. Potential top pick Madison Prespakis was the star in the Under 18s, while Olivia Meagher starred for the Under 16s, booting three goals.

King snatches victory for Vic Metro

It took them almost every minute of the designated four quarters, but Vic Metro finally shook off the Allies with the final kick of the game to win their Round 2 National Under 18 Championships clash. It was potential number one pick Ben King who put the final nail in the coffin for the visitors, booting a set shot goal from a laser pass from Xavier O’Halloran late in the game. The Allies kicked 0.9 in the second term which they will no doubt look back on as a missed opportunity, but they had heart for all the four quarters and almost snatched the win against one of the title contenders courtesy of some great play from Fraser Turner and the defensive efforts of Jacob Koschitzke.

Saints all heart after disastrous start

It was looking like another disappointing loss for St Kilda when the out-of-sorts Saints travelled north to take on the equally out-of-form Gold Coast Suns. Trailing by 31 points at the final break, many Saints fans had given up hope on social media, but a stunning turnaround and a match-winning goal from Jade Gresham turned their anger into celebration as they got out of jail and earned some relief from the constant media speculation around the club. There is still much to go in the 2018 season, but the last quarter was a rare highlight for the year.

Riccardi’s last quarter shuts down Power to claim two points

A four-goal last quarter from Calder Cannons’ over-age forward Jake Riccardi turned off the Power in Gippsland on Sunday. The big man booted 5.2 for the game, four of which came in the final term, as the teams swapped leads multiple times. His efforts were enough to haul Calder across the line, missing most of its core side with five out due to Vic Metro duties, and co-captain Mitch Podhajski also missing. Instead the young Cannons defied odds to steal two points in what was a memorable game for the forward in particular.

Western Bulldogs claim maiden VFLW win

It was a long time coming, but the Western Bulldogs’ Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s side had its first win on the weekend. It took until Round 6, but with a number of its AFL Women’s stars returning, the Bulldogs made it a win to remember, belting Williamstown by 56 points as Alyssa Mifsud and Jessica Francke booted a combined nine goals. The reigning AFL Women’s premiers will be keen to add a few more wins to its tally this season, as more of its stars return to the competition and give some top sides a scare.

Relaxed Purcell enjoying football development

LIKE a number of other talented footballers, Geelong Falcons midfielder Olivia Purcell crossed to the sport a few years ago when a friend convinced her to give it a go. From the moment she picked up the ball, it clicked and over the recent years, Purcell has gone from strength to strength in each team she joined.

“It started in Year 8 or 9 I just decided to play for the school footy team and then someone just asked me to come down and play for their local team,” she said. “So I just came down and played for Newtown (and Chilwell) and then from there got involved with Vic Country in my first year, and then there was TAC Cup, Geelong Falcons and then been here ever since.”

Her rapid improvement from picking up the footy to becoming a vital player in the competition was a reality when she was selected to join the AFL Women’s Academy for the 2018 season.

“This is my first year at the Academy,” she said. “It’s really fun, really good, but really good physically as a player, preparing yourself, but also mentally as well.”

Purcell has become known for her competitive nature around the stoppages and her ability to win the ball in tight situations and extract it out of traffic. All attributes which have been on display for the Falcons in their premiership-winning year this year. But like any competitive person, Purcell is not resting on her laurels, determined to get better.

“Id love to keep improving my skills,” she said. “My kicking – get a bit longer kicking – and being my final year, just getting into senior footy probably my body positioning against the older girls.”

The Falcons and Vic Country midfielder is excited about the National AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships coming up, enjoying the fact she can pull on the ‘Big V’ against the most talented players around the country.

Outside of football she has a number of different hobbies, and while the dream is to get drafted, Purcell is just enjoying the moment, and experiences she is gaining from meeting new people.

“I’ve got a lot of different hobbies like surfing, going to the beach, music, playing drums,” she said.

Expect her to be a player to watch at the National AFLW Under 18 Championships, as she is one of a number of top Vic Country midfielders that will strive to win back-to-back titles at the carnival after their success last season.

Several hours of travel “worth it” for sport fanatic, Julia Harvey

MURRAY Bushrangers midfielder Julia Harvey travels up to three hours to get to a football training session or game.

Tie this in with two nights of netball training, a night of football training, a netball and football game on the weekend, as well as basketball commitments in summer, and you have one dedicated athlete. Behind every dedicated athlete is a dedicated family, and Harvey’s family pushes through the struggles of travelling to help her enjoy playing the sports she loves.

“We’re used to it now,” Harvey said. “We’ve had three years of travelling around with all different sports but some weeks it can be pretty hard. You get to the end of the week at school and you’re absolutely exhausted but it’s all worth it.”

Harvey began playing with the Murray Bushrangers in the second year of the program, unaware of the opportunity that girls had to play footy at a representative level. She admits that being selected was something she never saw coming.

“I never thought it was even possible,” Harvey said. “I used to always see the boys do it and think this is so amazing why haven’t the girls got that? “When I got asked, I was like ‘oh my god there’s actually a girls version’. “I jumped at the opportunity, I thought it was amazing.”

The small 15 year-old arrived at the Bushrangers excited but also slightly intimidated, as she was playing with and against some of the best female footballers in the state. Now in her final year of the program, Harvey reflects on the club’s amazing progression from struggling with numbers to overflowing with them.

“I was probably one of the youngest there so it was pretty hard at the start,” she said. “We barely got a team together and we used to get beaten by a lot so it was pretty tough at the start but it’s just grown so much since then.”

The Bushrangers went undefeated in 2017 and won three games this year but for Harvey, the enjoyment of the program comes from making new friends.

“I made so many friends, this year especially, like Claudia McKimmie and Liv Barber,” the Murray midfielder said. “There’s so many girls here that I didn’t know until I played footy and I’ve created amazing friendships just from a couple of weeks playing footy. I reckon that’s probably the best thing to take away.”

Among three sports, Harvey is also in the midst of Year 12 studies, with an aim to fulfill her childhood ambition of being a physical education teacher. The 18 year-old says her sporting journey has helped her to balance her impressive array of commitments.

“I suppose where I’ve grown up playing so many sports, I’ve probably learnt to manage my time well, especially with school,” Harvey said. “I try to work hard at school and so I can have time outside of school to focus on sport.”

She now has another sport commitment to focus on, as she has been named in the Vic Country squad for the upcoming AFL Women’s Under 18 National Championships.

With a full pathway in place for females to achieve their footballing dreams, Harvey encourages all young girls to join a program like the Murray Bushrangers.

“Make the most of it,” she said. “It’s such an amazing program. Like I said, you make so many friends and even footy wise too, you learn so much. I’d just take everything in because my time’s already come to an end and it’s gone so quick.”

Fantastic Five: Memorable moments from the weekend

FROM Under 16s to AFL stars, there were plenty of memorable moments from the weekend.

Future AFLW talent on show

The 2020 AFL Women’s draft crop gave spectators a glimpse of their potential on the weekend, when Vic Metro and Vic Country had respective wins over South Australia and NSW/ACT in the National AFLW Under 16 Championships. Eastern Ranges’ Olivia Meagher and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ Renee Saulitis were named their respective games’ best on grounds, while Abbie Ballard and Natalie Sligar were the Most Valuable Players (MVPs) for South Australia and NSW/ACT respectively.

Performance fit for a King

In the absence of brother Max who will miss the season with an ACL injury, Ben King was the star of the show for Vic Metro in their victory over Western Australia in Round 1 of the National Under 18 Championships. King booted five goals and was a dominant force up forward, reminding draft watchers of what he is capable of. There’s no doubt many cannot wait for Vic Metro to face South Australia with King up one end and Jack Lukosius up the other. Both are genuine number one contenders and King could well find himself leap frogging quite a few names come November.

Allies’ early win

Bringing together six different teams to form one is always difficult when it comes to team cohesion, but the Allies got on the board early with a victory over Vic Country. The visitors were two players down by half-time with injuries to inside midfielder Jye Caldwell and Mitch Riordan, as the likes of Chayce Jones took control and helped the home team to an opening round victory. It will get tougher from here on, but they have the top-end talent of other sides, and will enjoy the return of key forward Nick Blakey.

Hot Pies/Freeze MND

Collingwood fans have not had a great deal to smile about the last few years, but if their 2018 form so far is anything to go by, they will have plenty of reasons this season. They still have a long way to go, but they tore in-form Melbourne to shreds on Queens Birthday in front of a huge crowd. The Freeze MND cause is fantastic, and the pre-game ‘Big Freeze’ with the 18 AFL coaches was a great stance of solidarity. On the field, the American Pie Mason Cox, and the gun-and-run youngster Jaidyn Stephenson were terrific up forward in a new-look Magpies outfit in 2018.

Under 16s start their National Championships

The Division 2 National Championships kicked off on the weekend, with Tasmania and NSW/ACT getting victories over Queensland and Northern Territory respectively. There were plenty of highlights across the two games, with the three-game series run similar to the old-style Under 18s National Championships – with NSW/ACT and Queensland in lieu of the four academies. No doubt the academies staff will be keeping a close eye on proceedings to see how their players perform against the country’s best.

Passion is driving improved Haeusler to dream big

FROM camping and motorbike riding on her spare days, to working as an apprentice industrial electrician during the week, Gippsland Power’s Emily Haeusler has always enjoyed using her hands.

It comes without surprise that the Power defender has improved rapidly in season 2018, with intercept marking and rarely losing a one-on-one contest as the cornerstones of her game. Originally a midfielder, Haeusler was thrown into a role at half-back after round one and has been one of the most consistent defenders across the season, earning her a place in the AFL Draft Central TAC Cup Team of the Year.

“I’ve mainly played through the midfield and this is only my third year, but I got put in the half-back and that was something quite new to me,” Haeusler said. “I had to ask where to stand when the ball goes up. “It’s been a really good year and I’ve developed so much, kicking on both feet and playing a new position it’s just great.”

Haeusler said she loved attacking the ball and had learnt when to approach a contest, and when to hang back. Her disposal by foot is the next step for her as a footballer to improve.

“I think that (my improvements) would mainly be my kicking,” she said. “I still kick them ones that are not high and they’re not direct, but there’s always room for improvement in that kind of thing.”

Her football journey almost could have been different had she not taken the opportunity to have a kick at her local school.

“So my brothers, they always played football and that was sort of everything I wanted to do, but it was always the boys’ sport and my dad said ‘Nah you can’t play because you’ll get hurt’,” Haeusler said. “So I started playing footy in Year 7 with the girls team and just loved it ever since. I came to Gippsland Power and just it’s just been my thing, I think I’ve found my groove.”

The friendships brought about by the sport, and particularly at the Gippsland Power, have been some of the best memories for Haeusler over the past couple of years, and many long road trips have been spent chatting on the way to games.

:For training I’ve only got to go 20 minutes, it’s really, really convenient and I’m very lucky in that way,” Haeusler said. “(For) games they’re mainly Melbourne-based because we’re a country team, but it still doesn’t affect me because I carpool with a lot of friends. “It doesn’t change my love for the game and wanting to be there.”

Haeusler is the first to admit she is probably in a different situation to many other top-age TAC Cup Girls footballers.

“There’s not many girls that are out of school,” she said. “We’ve got those few that are 19 year-olds and in uni. “But I’m a first year apprentice which is very different and it’s hard because I can get quite tired and sometimes I will work and still go to the footy. “The girls and the club have been very understanding of that though, so it’s good.”

The 17 year-old apprentice industrial electrician is following a passion of hers, that combines a number of aspects she loves.

“I’ve always wanted to do things with my hands but I still love physics and the maths based side of everything like that, so electrician was sort of the way to go,” she said. “It still engaged my brain a lot of the time, but it was a practical job.”

Outside of work and football, Haeusler loves family trips, and will pitch a tent or jump on a motorbike whenever she gets the chance.

“We’re a very outdoorsy family so I’ve just done whatever the brother did and followed in his footsteps, so lots of going up the bush with the family and any of that sort of stuff,” she said. “That is (the perfect weekend), and sometimes I incorporate them both (footy and outdoors activities). “Obviously footy’s my priority for the weekend, but if I get the Sunday off, I will go up the bush. “That’s our thing.”

Haeusler hopes her passion for the sport she loves rubs off on the way she plays, with the goal of improving even more as the year goes on.

“(I’m looking forward to) people knowing who I am and (thinking) she’s still only young and she’s come from sort of nowhere and she really has that passion and that drive to get better,” she said.  “Hopefully (I can) play some VFL. “I did get a letter for Vic Country so I’m trying my very best to see how far I can go with that and see where it takes me.”

The amount of opportunities now available in the youth girls space has not been lost on Haeusler and has a message for anyone considering taking up the sport.

“It’s up and coming and exciting, there’s so many opportunities,” she said. “If they’re there, why not have a go and say yes to all them things? “There’s always room for improvement and development.”