Despite long-pursuing a career in another sport, former baseballer and newly-drafted Cat Nicole Garner isn’t a complete stranger to football in Geelong.
While the 27-year-old pulled on the hoops for the first time this week after being taken at selection 50 in the AFLW draft, she came across Geelong’s radar four years ago.
“Geelong had their first VFLW team and I came to a tryout at Deakin University – it was a talent search day. I think there were close to 300 girls there, so it was an enormous day,” Garner says.
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“It was really just an opportunity to try and connect and get to know a few people for me.”
The Sale local caught the eye of now AFLW coach Paul Hood.
“Paul did give me a buzz afterwards and we had a really good chat about why I’d come down, what I wanted to do and how I could progress my football.”
“I was pretty honest that Sale to Geelong was just that bit too far. I was going to try and pursue something just that little bit closer to home.”
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At the time, Garner was a football newbie.
Garner had just decided to finish up a long career in baseball that took her to Canada where she played for 12 months with an Ontario-based team.
“That was an amazing achievement and I did some other representative games as well.”
“I spent quite a few years playing for Springvale Baseball Club.”
“I had always wanted to play footy, unfortunately there was just no pathway for me as a junior and as girl in Gippsland until 2016 when Gippsland Galaxy started a team. As soon as I caught wind of that I jumped on board.”
The Cats will be glad Garner made the switch to football, with the club thrilled to have finally landed the experienced athlete.
Garner has rapidly risen within the football ranks, progressing from the Gippsland Galaxy to play for Cranbourne and then Casey in the VFLW, where she was a co-captain in 2019.
“I’m really, really happy to land a spot here at Geelong,” Garner says.
“I was at work at the time when I found, listening to the draft obviously very closely. We were just all up in arms and super excited.
“At first it was really overwhelming, my phone went into overdrive and my head was just spinning.
“I had a chat to some people close to me and they straightened me up and said look, just enjoy the moment. It’s never going to happen again so just enjoy the ride."