After her first season of AFLW Olivia Purcell knew what she wanted to work on to best prepare her for 2020.
“The first year it was all kind of new,” said Purcell.
“It was more physical, the bigger bodies.
“I hadn’t really played against women before because I’d just played junior footy.
“So after the first season, I definitely wanted to get stronger and be able to, especially in the midfield, be stronger in the contest.”
In the off-season the 19-year-old enlisted the help of a family friend, three-time premiership player Nigel Lappin.
Purcell grew up living close by the Brisbane legend who now works at the Cats as an assistant coach in the men’s program.
“I knew Nigel before football.
“We’re family friends, my sisters used to babysit his kids.”
The two caught up from time-to-time to work through Purcell’s development.
“He just helped me with my midfield craft.
“A lot of the players I played against were stronger than me, so he just helped me learn how to outcraft them.”
Unfortunately a shoulder injury sustained in last year’s VFLW season placed Purcell in doubt of playing in Round 1.
Initially Purcell was told she may miss up to four games, however the determined teenager completed her rehab to perfection in order to give herself the best opportunity to play.
“I remember having a chat with the club doctor and he said unless you can do everything perfectly you’re looking at Round 4.
“In my head I was like, ‘I’m just going to try and do everything I can to make sure it’s ok.’"
Thankfully for Purcell and the Cats she did get back in time for Round 1.
The 161cm midfielder had an explosive start to the season.
Against Fremantle in Round 1 Purcell had a game-high 27 disposals.
In Round 2 against Brisbane she backed up her performance with 16 disposals and two goals.
“I think I was just happy being out there and putting my best foot forward, I was just so excited.”
Purcell continued her impressive form across all six rounds and at season’s end she led her team in disposals, metres gained, contested possessions, clearances, kicks and score involvements.
Purcell was arguably the most improved player for Geelong and quite possibly the entire competition.
However, it wasn’t any individual accomplishments that Purcell enjoyed most about 2020.
“I think it was winning the Richmond and Gold Coast games, because I think at the start of the season we were so close so we knew we could challenge the best teams.
“It was just nice to finally get rewarded for our effort.
"So that was a highlight, just reward for our effort I guess.”
Purcell’s improvement this season shows that hard work does pay off.