Geelong Falcons and Geelong Cats VFLW midfielder Luka Lesosky-Hay stepped up in the absence of some star former teammates in order to put herself on the radar of AFLW clubs this year.
18-year-old Lesosky-Hay played in Geelong’s 2018 NAB League Girls premiership victory alongside subsequent Cats AFL Women’s draftees Nina Morrison, Olivia Purcell and Denby Taylor.
This year, the Torquay (AFL Barwon) junior and fellow top-agers like Paige Sheppard and Falcons captain Lucy McEvoy found themselves having to fill those sizeable boots.
Lesosky-Hay initially found it a nerve-wracking task, but the strong contest player responded by being named in the NAB League Girls Team of the Year after averaging 20 disposals and five tackles per game across her 10 matches.
Those performances gave her the confidence to step up once again, representing Vic Country at the 2019 NAB AFLW Under-18 Championships and making three Swisse Wellness VFL Women’s appearances for Geelong.
“By the end of the last NAB League season, I was relying a lot on some of the older players like Nina and Olivia,” Lesosky-Hay said at the recent NAB AFLW Draft Combine, where she finished equal-fifth overall in the endurance-based Yo-Yo Test.
“I was sort of in awe getting to play with them in the midfield and I don’t think I realised how much they were doing until this year, when we had to step up and take those spots. I had to put a lot more work into my fitness and I took a role in the leadership group.
“I knew we had to step up, but I didn’t expect to take on that role as well as we did.”
The Falcons were upset by the Calder Cannons in a preliminary final, but Lesosky-Hay had already announced herself as a prospect for selection in October 22’s NAB AFLW Draft, helping lead the team to second place on the NAB League Girls ladder following the home-and-away season.
For that, she can partly thank her AFLW-listed ex-teammates for driving her to overcome some self-doubt.
“I hadn’t been in that top group of players and I didn’t get into the Vic Country program last year, so I was a bit unsure whether it (getting drafted) was what I wanted this year,” Lesosky-Hay said.
“During the break between seasons though, I realised it was definitely what I wanted. Those girls were super-inspiring and I was so proud to see where they went.
“I think I was putting pressure on myself for missing out on some things last year and seeing it as something I couldn’t do anything about, but I realised I could actually fix it.”
A big pre-season laid the foundations for a campaign focused on being drafted by the end of 2019, with Lesosky-Hay’s efforts for the VFLW Cats reinforcing that she was on the right track.
“I was nervous for the VFLW games because there were going to be bigger bodies and a different style of game, but I felt like I was able to hold my own better than I expected,” Lesosky-Hay said.
“It was so cool to be back with Olivia and Denby. I played with them in my first game against the Western Bulldogs (in June) and being at training with them was so fun – like it was back at the Falcons.”
NAB LEAGUE ‘FAST FIVE’ QUESTIONS
Most influential person on your football at Geelong:
“Jason Armistead, our coach. He was so supportive of us and still is. He pushed me a lot and I felt so comfortable to be able to ask for the help I needed. That’s definitely what helped me improve through the NAB League.”
Most valuable lesson learned in the NAB League:
“When you’re closer to your teammates and you open yourself up, you just play so much better together. The Falcons were so good in that way. It made footy really enjoyable, in a way that it wouldn’t be if you didn’t open up to people.”
Teammate you’ve most enjoyed sharing the NAB League journey with:
“I’ve probably been playing with Lucy McEvoy the longest. I think she’s an incredible player and she’s so fun to be around. She’s a natural leader.”
Most difficult NAB League opponent:
“Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights), who I played on a bit this season. She was very hard to keep an eye on and kept disappearing from me.”
Most memorable NAB League moment:
“Winning the Grand Final in 2018. We were all so close as a team by that point. It was so fun and I won’t forget that.”
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