OCTAVIA Di Donato's dedication to improvement is paying dividends.
Just ask her Bendigo Pioneers coach Danny O'Bree.
"When Octavia came into our program a couple of years ago she'll be more than happy to admit that she was fairly raw and probably a bit uncoordinated," O'Bree said this week.
"But she is one of the hardest workers that I've seen in footy - boys or girls - and her dedication has just been first-class."
And it's that dedication that in a short space of time has seen Di Donato grow from raw talent to recently winning the MVP award for the Victoria Country under-17 women's team.
Di Donato was awarded the MVP after starring for Vic Country in the second of its AFL Women's Under-17 Championships matches against Vic Metro at Oakleigh.
"I played through the midfield and rotated forward in the first half and then played half-back in the second half, so it was a good experience," Di Donato said this week.
"I definitely wasn't expecting to get the MVP, so it was a nice surprise.
"I thought I played alright. I was able to win the ball and get it off to my team-mates, but the conditions were really windy, so that made it hard work."
As well as playing in the under-17 game, Di Donato also stepped up and played two matches for Victoria Country in the Women's Under-19 Championships.
Di Donato's football career began with South Bendigo at under-nine level, while she's relished the opportunity to have been involved with not only the Bendigo Pioneers in recent years, but also the Athlete Development Program (ADP) when she was at Bendigo South East College.
She's now doing Year 11 at Bendigo Senior Secondary College.
"Danny (O'Bree) has helped me so much in working on my skills and overall game," Di Donato said.
"He was also my coach with ADP, so it has been great having him as a coach."
Equally, O'Bree has enjoyed coaching Di Donato and witnessing her impressive development as a player.
"Her family needs a real pat on the back as well because whenever she needs to do a session, they are always there to drive her and support her," Di Donato said.
"She will do extra running, extra skills, extra gym work and just works so hard and she's a real pleasure to coach.
"Probably her greatest attribute is her kicking. She's a really nice kick, but she also gets into position unbelievably well to receive the footy.
"She's now really working on her inside game, as she has done for the past 12 months, and has made significant inroads to complement her outside game.
"She takes feedback on as good as anyone I've seen."
Di Donato was very much a utility for the Bendigo Pioneers during their NAB League girls season earlier in the year.
"She played everywhere... she started the year down back and then played midfield/forward, so she has great versatility," O'Bree said.
"The Vic Country teams had the confidence to do the same with her at that level as well."
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