BENDIGO’S Emma Grant is doing all she can to make sure she is part of women’s football history next month.
Grant is one of 28 players on Collingwood’s inaugural AFL Women’s list for the 2017 season that begins on Friday, February 3, when the Magpies play the first game in the competition’s history against Carlton.
Grant – selected with pick No.91 in October’s women’s draft – is the only regional player on Collingwood’s list, making for plenty of hours in the car travelling up the Calder for three training sessions per week on a Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 6pm at the Holden Centre.
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“It has been a phenomenal experience so far and obviously, a huge step-up in professionalism with three three-hour training sessions a week,” Grant said this week.
“But the amount I’ve learned so far from the different coaches and the way we want to play our footy has been awesome and I’ve just been a real sponge down there.
“Having been a bit of a leader in Bendigo, I go down there and feel like a little fish in the big sea and that has been nice to take a step back and just listen and learn.
“You feel yourself getting fitter and stronger with each session and your skills are improving and it’s nice to be able to see those results.
“I’m really enjoying it and just can’t wait to start playing.”
Grant – a PE and Grade 1-2 teacher at Bendigo Violet Street Primary School – was drafted by Collingwood from the Bendigo Thunder, with whom she was a foundation player with in the Victorian Women’s Football League in 2011.
The 27-year-old utility captained the Thunder last year – the side was unbeaten until losing the VWFL premier division grand final to Deer Park – and she was a runaway winner by 10 votes of the competition’s best and fairest, capturing the attention of the Magpies.
“We were very excited when we got the opportunity to select Emma with our 12th pick,” Collingwood coach Wayne Siekman told the club’s website.
“Not only does Emma bring great leadership, but her football knowledge and reading of the play is something that will benefit this club in season one.
“She is a utility player that can go anywhere. She has played all over the ground and is someone that we will be able to confidently call on to play the role that helps the team.”
Grant – who first played junior football with the Gisborne Rookies from under-9s to under-12s – is open to whatever that role may be.
“I’ve been training with the forward line group… our forward line is phenomenal with some big strong marking forwards, but also some clever smaller players and a fantastic line coach in Brendan Major,” Grant said.
“But I’ve been playing a little bit of everywhere, so I’m not exactly sure where I’ll be used. They have said they are keen to keep me as a bit of a utility and go where needed – I’m happy to fill any hole that’s necessary.”
Grant is one of five players from last year’s Bendigo Thunder squad who were drafted into the AFLW.
The other four players – Jess Kennedy, Bella Ayre, Hayley Trevean and Sarah Last – were all picked up by Carlton.
And that means all five Thunder players could be part of the historic season-opening game between the Magpies and Blues at Olympic Park on February 3.
“I see a couple of the (Carlton) girls still quite regularly and have been kicking the footy with them a bit and there’s obviously a lot to be talking about, especially around that round one game, but we know where to draw the line on that,” Grant said.
“I’m just looking forward to that first game and, hopefully, there’s a few of us Bendigo girls playing in it.”
As for the Magpies’ expectations in season one of the AFLW, Grant says they are setting their sights straight on the ultimate prize.
“We’re in it to win it, for sure,” Grant said.
“We think we’ve got a really good list that is strong all-round.
“Each club would probably be thinking the same thing, so it’s going to come down to who is going to gel the best and with there only seven games for each team, you can’t afford to drop too many.”
As well as Collingwood and Carlton, also fielding teams in the first season of the AFLW competition will be Adelaide, GWS Giants, Western Bulldogs, Fremantle, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The AFLW season will be finished by the end of March, with Grant to then spend the winter playing with Diamond Creek in the VFL women’s league.