There are many challenges to working and playing AFLW.
Juggling shifts to fit your football commitments, managing fatigue from 60 hour weeks and finding time to just sit back and relax.
On Monday I was exposed to a new challenge.
“How did you go on the weekend?” asked every single person in my workplace. Each time the question was asked my heart sank a little further.
When I told my colleagues the result the next question to follow was, “did your team play badly or were North Melbourne really, really good?”
I thought about this for a while and answered, “North played very well and we can definitely play better.”
For me that summed up our Round 1 game. The result hurts but I know we can be better.
A long 12 months
A lot has happened since our last AFLW game. Lockdowns, hand sanitiser, face masks and checkpoints. It’s been a challenging period for us all.
Keeping me sane during Melbourne’s lockdown period was the dream of playing football again and running out in the hoops onto GMHBA Stadium in front of our fans.
I used this thought to motivate me through lockdown. I spent my one hour a day outside training for footy - running hundreds of laps of the local oval and frequenting my new favourite gym, Phoebe’s Iso Gym.
I know a lot of my teammates did the same. Boydy spent the winter working on her speed, Becky Webster worked on her endurance and Rocky, Soph and Liv pumped iron in Rocky's home gym.
All of us were determined to get back out doing what we love - playing footy.
Running out onto GMHBA on Sunday I thought about how good it felt to be back out there with my teammates, playing the game we love in front of our fans - it was so nice to see you again.
It had been a long time coming, but the feeling I had when we ran out onto the turf was exactly as I had dreamt.
Those dreams quickly dissipated when I realised North were there to spoil our plans.
When Emma King kicked her third goal in the first quarter, it was clear the ‘Roos meant business and we had a challenge on our hands.
North’s clean skills gave them time and composure and we spent most of the day chasing.
Their experienced players stood up - Jasmine Garner, Jenna Bruton, Emma Kearney, Kaitlyn Ashmore and Emma King. These are extremely good players who have been playing the game for a long time. Unfortunately for us, everything just clicked for them.
Despite this, I think there was one giant positive for our group.
At three-quarter time it would have been very easy for us to drop our heads and give up. Instead we kept fighting until the end.
In the last quarter we were able to get a score on the board and finally some reward for effort.
This shows character and resilience and I think that is something we should be extremely proud of.
Game day highlight
Watching the debutants receive their playing jumpers for the first time is one of my favourite parts of playing footy.
Call me sentimental, but seeing the joy on the faces of the debutants and their proud families warms my heart.
Like everything over the past 12 months, the jumper presentation on Sunday was a bit different to usual.
Unfortunately Darcy’s family couldn’t be in the room, but there was something else that made the presentation special.
20-year-old Liv Purcell presented Darcy with her jumper.
Just two seasons ago Liv was in the same position as Darcy - a Geelong Falcon graduate and high draft pick.
Now entering her third season I watched Liv speak in front of the group with confidence and wisdom. I felt like a proud older sister.
It wasn’t that long ago that Liv played her first AFLW game. Now she is our Best and Fairest winner and All Australian representative and she’s passing her knowledge onto our new recruits.
It’s been a pleasure watching these kids grow.
There’s always next week
As my work colleagues walk away from our awkward conversation about the weekend’s match, their most common departing words were, “there’s always next week!”
It’s a cliche but it’s true.
Next week is a completely new game. We have a new opponent, a new challenge and the group will be ready.
Don’t get me wrong, we were hurting after Sunday’s game - a lot. But at training on Tuesday I could tell that the result on the weekend wasn’t going to define us.
There’s no point dwelling on the loss. We are going to learn from last weekend’s game and use it to get better.
As Hoody said after the match - that was only four points. There are still 32 more points to win.
Here’s hoping next week I’ll be telling my work colleagues about our big victory against Collingwood.