Pearce sees promise in AFLW season

Joel Peterson | Bendigo Weekly | 19-Jan-2018

Daisy Pearce at a recent training session with Sandhurst's youth girls team. Photo: Andrew Perryman.

IT may not include the element of frenzy of last year’s campaign but there is plenty of excitement among players and fans ahead of the second AFL Women’s season.

And that excitement is  shared between rookies and established stars alike. 

Just ask Melbourne captain Daisy Pearce.

After a rollercoaster 2017 that included being the figurehead of AFLW, duties on TV and radio and a VFL premiership with Darebin, Pearce is busy preparing for the second coming of AFLW.

Like many players, she has learned a lot between season one to two, and part of that has been the importance of stepping away from the cut and thrust of football.

“Last year was just so full on and I’m lucky to have the opportunities that I do, but you do need to find time for yourself and find that balance,” she said.

“Last year I put everything I had into footy, and while I’m still giving it everything I have while I’m training and playing I think it’s important to not let it dominate every second of your life.”

Part of Pearce’s “down time” has been running several sessions with Sandhurst’s youth girls program in recent months.

The 29-year-old has a Sandhurst connection through partner Angus, a defender in the Dragons’ 2016 Bendigo Football League premiership, and says she has noticed a difference in the amount of girls attending clinics as well as their skills.

“It’s incredible to see 40 or 50 girls showing up to these clinics, all in their Sandhurst gear with their boots on and ready to go,” she said.

“I grew up in Bright and I honestly thought I must have been the only girl that played footy. It just didn’t happen. There were no girls teams at all.

“So for there to be such a change and to be a small part of that change is an amazing feeling and something I don’t take for granted.

“Now girls are coming through and they are part of pathway and development programs and their skills are getting better all the time, which is a really exciting part of watching the next generation of players.”

Pearce has also found time to head back to work as a midwife one day a week, a vocation she was qualified in before the wide world of footballing opportunities came her way. 

“It’s an opportunity to just enjoy doing that. I love footy and wouldn’t give it up for anything, but having time to do something completely different has been really valuable,” she said.

Pearce has been joined at Melbourne by two players with a local connection this season, in Eden Zanker and former Bendigo Spirit basketballer Anna Teague.

Zanker played with the Bendigo Pioneers last season before being taken with pick four in the AFL National Draft, and is an exciting part of the Demons’ future according to Pearce.

“It was pretty tough on her early, she’d just finished high school and she had to move to Melbourne, didn’t know her way around at all and in a week’s time she was at AAMI Park for training,” Pearce said.

“We’re just starting to see her get to that level that she can reach this year. 

“We’re all excited to watch that unfold, I really think she’s going to be a great player.”

And while there are less unknowns than in the inaugural season, Pearce says there is still a lot of unpredictability about AFLW version 2.0.

“It’s still really difficult to get a read on it, just with the rate that clubs and teams are developing, I don’t think anyone really knows where it will go to,” she said.

“Even last year’s form isn’t a great guide. I think with the short, cut-throat season it didn’t leave a lot of margin for error and you need a lot of luck in any season, but especially in seven weeks.

“In terms of our team, it’s like a different squad with where we’re at this year, but I’m sure a lot of people are feeling that way.

“I think the positives about our year last year was we got better as the year went on, we probably played our best game in the second to-last round.

“The program and coaches set us up really well and now we can start turning that into a game style that is really competitive.”

The AFLW season kicks off with Carlton playing Collingwood on Friday, February 2. Melbourne’s campaign starts against GWS on February 3 at Casey Fields.


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