A host of top-age NAB League Girls players will soon compete in their final-ever NAB AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships matches, with Vic Country and Vic Metro’s last games of 2019 taking place on Friday.
It will be the end of an era of sorts for many players who have progressed along the under-age female talent pathway since they were much younger, such as Geelong Falcons captain Lucy McEvoy.
The 18-year-old has represented Vic Country at the Championships for the last four years.
McEvoy has been integral in Country’s two wins on the Gold Coast this week – against Queensland on Monday and the Eastern Allies on Wednesday – as well as in a loss to Vic Metro in June. She has so far won more disposals than any other Country player through the carnival and is an experienced leader among head coach Aasta O’Connor’s group.
Country’s clash with Western Australia on Friday from 12pm will be McEvoy’s farewell to the national stage that has helped propel her into the mix as a potential high NAB AFL Women’s Draft selection this October.
* Friday’s NAB AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships games featuring Vic Country and Vic Metro will be streamed live. Follow @NABLeague on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for updates and links.
“I always look forward to this week,” McEvoy said on the Gold Coast. “It’s always good fun and gets better and better each year. I’m sure I’ll be disappointed when it finishes.
“I still feel like I muck around a bit too much with the rest of the girls. Some would probably think that I’m younger than I am, because I muck around and have a bit of fun.
“Playing with a new group of girls each year is an awesome experience. You learn so much getting to play at a higher level and just enjoying the week together. I really like the relationships you build with everyone in footy; you make lifelong friends out of it.”
McEvoy has thrived playing mostly as a tough midfielder in 2019, but the versatility she’s shown to also fulfil roles in defence and the forward line is one of her key attributes to have attracted AFLW club recruiters.
Two goals in 90 seconds for Lucy McEvoy! 😍
— AFL Women's (@aflwomens) July 8, 2019
The St Mary’s (Geelong FL) product said the Under-18 Championships gave her a chance to learn the craft of different positions from some of the country’s best young players.
“I certainly learn a lot off the girls who have played in those positions a lot longer than me,” McEvoy said. “I think the way Olivia Barber (Murray Bushrangers) moves in the forward line is really clever and I certainly try and use that myself.
“I’ve probably played in the back line the most through the years, but you’re always learning new things like how to read the play or where you should position yourself. In the midfield, timing seems to be a big thing – in reading the tap and not running past the contest.
“Developing my game in different areas of the ground has helped me grow and become more versatile. I sort of see it as a fresh start during the game if you get thrown into a new position.”
Meanwhile, one of Vic Metro’s senior class of 2019 – Calder Cannons skipper Georgia Patrikios – agreed that the Under-18 Championships provided a rare opportunity to learn.
The 18-year-old Pascoe Vale product is also in the conversation as a high selection in October’s AFLW Draft thanks to her ability to find the ball and then run and carry it forward – skills evident across Metro’s three Championships wins so far.
But Patrikios is happy to borrow traits from her highly-rated teammates, and she’s seen plenty of them in full flight through Metro’s undefeated campaign.
“I’ve been able to pick up different qualities from all the leaders, putting all their skills together, gaining knowledge from them and working together,” Patrikios said on the Gold Coast.
“Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights) just looks like she has so much time. She has a nice sidestep and is really composed for a bottom-ager. Gabby Newton (Northern Knights) has unreal hands, is really smart with the footy and covers the ground really well. Izzy Grant (Western Jets) is quick and agile and does the little things like tackling and winning ground-balls.
You can't evade Gabby Newton!
— AFL Women's (@aflwomens) July 10, 2019
“Just getting to meet all the girls and create closer bonds with them is probably the most important thing. You only get to play with each other in three or four games for the year, so to make those new friendships is pretty special.”
Patrikios and head coach Nathan Burke’s Metro team will aim to complete a perfect 2019 campaign with victory against the Eastern Allies on Friday from 10am.