There are many reasons behind Casey’s improvement as it has turned into one of the best VFLW sides this season. But young forward Tahlia Fellows is one of the main factors behind the Demons’ destructive turn.

 When Tahlia Fellows reflects on her breakneck style of footy that has resulted in her booting 12 goals for the season, she identified one key element that has held her in good stead.

“It’s definitely my speed – I’ve always brought speed,” Fellows told Casey Media. “But this season I’ve worked on it – I’ve been doing some speed sessions with the strength and conditioning coaches.

“Then it’s just been about taking the game on and being hard hitting.”

It’s been a long time in the making for Fellows, who joined Casey in 2021 and expected to forge a new step in her career. Instead, a mixture of continuous COVID lockdowns and frustrating injuries curtailed the forward’s start to her VFLW playing days.

But actually being able to get out on the field and play in 2022, regardless of the success she’s enjoyed, has been enough to satisfy Fellows.

“After COVID, when we did finally get a run last year, I then had three months’ worth of injuries,” Fellows said. 

“So coming out and playing this year has actually been a breath of fresh air to actually get some games into me.”

But Fellows hasn’t just returned to play games for Casey and be serviceable at the level – she’s come in with a bang.

The forward sits eighth in the VFLW for goals kicked this season, having slotted 12 goals and racking up an average of 14 disposals per game.

She currently stands as one of the premier forwards in the competition and is a key factor behind Casey’s nine-win run to start the season. Now sitting third on the ladder on the eve of the VFLW finals, the Demons’ resurgence has consisted of speed and potency up forward – qualities that Fellows has led with while donning the red and blue.

Having joined Casey last year, Fellows has already noticed the cultural shift that the VFLW side has undergone in her short time at the club. In her eyes it has created a unique environment that is building both better people and players.

“I’m absolutely loving the environment at Casey,” Fellows said. “We’ve come out this year and our culture makes it the best club I’ve ever been at, just with the players, coaches and program being holistic.

“It hasn’t just been about footy. It’s about being a better person and I don’t think any club that I’ve been to has been like that. I’ve never experienced it before – everyone genuinely supports everyone.”

Fellows has been one of the many players to flourish in this open environment, having quickly become a steadfast member of the forward line. She’s a focal point up forward with plenty of X-factor.

But when the forward reflects on the other key changes to Casey in 2022, she mentioned two players as standouts who have helped take the Demons to another level this season.

“I definitely think Sammie Johnson really drives our hunt,” Fellows said. “And Cara McCrossan – being her first year of footy after playing Gaelic in Ireland ­– she’s absolutely killing the game.

“It is a shame she has gotten injured when she did but I have no doubt at all that she’ll bounce back stronger.”

When looking at the evolution of her own game, Fellows said her run of injuries last year shaped her mindset. Instead of overanalysing the opportunities available and her position in the footy landscape, the forward assumed the mantra of “realising that things can be taken away straight away without being prepared” and sought to make the most of her time playing elite level football.

It has served Fellows well. A fortnight ago the Casey forward was selected in an Under-23 All Stars team to take on the NAB AFLW Under-18 Academy side in a representative match at Punt Road’s Swinburne Centre.

Fellows was named one of the best players and put her name up in lights.

“It was exciting. It was very different meeting all of the players on the same day and then playing a game together,” Fellows said. “But footy, being the sport it is, made sure everyone just got around each other and supported one another.

“We were all there just to have a bit of fun and play a good game. It was definitely different, but I wouldn’t change the experience.”

But now that experience is done, Fellows is juggling two priorities as the season winds towards the finals. With four new expansion teams about to enter the next AFLW season, Fellows is keen to get onto a list and play at the highest level.

But Fellows is also loving her season at Casey and wants to see how far her Demons can go in the upcoming finals series.

“We will just take it as it comes and hope we can put our best foot forward in the finals,” Fellows said. “It would be pretty amazing, even just to make the finals in itself is an accomplishment.

“But the goal is to get to the AFLW and see how far I can take my footy. The goal is to make it there to make my family and friends proud who have supported and believed in me more than myself at times.”