ACHIEVING personal goals on the football field can take some players months, years, even their entire career they can strive towards their targets and, in some cases, never reach their ambitions.
But for Casey Demons defender Hannah Dyson, the youngster is kicking her goals every time she takes the field.
“I’ve been lucky enough to reach a lot of my goals already this year,” Dyson told Melbourne Media.
“My first goal was making it into the squad for this year… Then my second goal was to be picked for a game.
“Then after being picked for the first game, it was just to get picked for as many games as I could throughout the season and to improve every week.
“I feel I have improved each week which has kept me in the team.”
Lining up for her 10th match of the season this Sunday is an impressive feat given it will only be the 13th match of football she has ever played.
After playing basketball at an elite level throughout her youth, the 23-year-old decided to give football a try towards the end of last year beginning to train with the Eastern Devils, a Women’s football factory and quickly earned a spot in the Devils side.
“Towards the end of the footy season last year, I decided to join the Eastern Devils as my local club,” Dyson recalls.
“Just to train, not really to play, just to train and see how I go.
“I was lucky enough to be asked to play three games towards the end of their season, and in those three games I realised I loved footy.”
The three games gave Hannah a taste of elite football, but also showed her she had a lot to learn in the transition from the basketball court to the football field and that is when the hard work started.
“After the season ended, I started to train with my Dad each week because I needed to learn about footy and my skills,” Dyson said.
“So, after training for a few months, my Dad sent me the link to sign up for the Casey Demons… I thought ‘why not?’.
“I put my name down… I ended up getting called down to come and try out and I made it through which was pretty cool.”
In her first year in the Casey program, Dyson has quickly become a lockdown defender in the Demons backline, showcasing the tenacity and the determination needed to be an elite defender in both football and basketball.
“With basketball, I was known to be a defender so it’s funny that when I came across to footy, [head coach Damien Keeping] was like your natural position is as a defender,” Dyson said laughingly.
“So, he has put me straight back there and hasn’t moved me since.
“But it has been pretty good because I got a lot of my natural defensive abilities from basketball and it goes with my natural competitiveness.”
That tenacity and competitiveness has seen Dyson form a formidable defensive trio with foundation Casey players Kaila Bentvelzen and Georgia McLean.
The threesome has been instrumental in leading the Demons defence to holding opponents to a paltry 33.1 points per game this year, a feat Hannah credits to her teammates being fellow competitors.
“I think we communicate really well… We are all competitors and we compete really hard,” Dyson said.
“We really focus on playing our role which I think has really formed our backline, we have us three who are there and always play our roles.
“And we really open to change, and really open to new teammates coming in and communicating with them too.”
Another reason Dyson credits to the fast start to her football career is funny enough still being so new to the game she has fallen in love with.
Already coming up against a number of high-profile AFLW forwards playing for VFLW sides this season including Jamiee Lambert, Jasmine Garner and Chloe Molloy, Dyson’s greenness is working to her advantage by not being overwhelmed by the challenge, but rather thriving at the chance to play against high-quality opponents.
“I am kind of lucky because a lot of the time I don’t actually know who my opposition is as well as the other girls because I am new to footy,” Dyson said bashfully.
“So, I go into the contest with an open mind.
“But the times I have been told who I am playing on has been pretty exciting to be given that challenge by the coaches and know they think I am up for the challenge… It has been pretty exciting.”
Fearless is a word which could describe the way Hannah goes about her football, but this attitude was inspired by the very first time she set foot into Casey Fields.
“The first time I came in, I remember they put up a slideshow to ask ourselves, ‘Why not you?’,” Dyson recalls.
“I felt comfortable at the Club from the moment I got there because each week I asked myself well, ‘why not me?’.
“I have made it this far without having a lot of experience and I have worked really hard.
“I think this Club has been one of the best environments I have ever been a part of… It has definitely exceeded any expectations I had.”
But playing for the red and blue is becoming a bit of a Dyson family tradition, Hannah is the niece of former Melbourne Demon and 105-AFL gamer Kevin Dyson and is hoping one day to replicate the feats of her uncle and play football at the highest level.
“For the rest of this season, I want to continue to improve every week and learn from each game,” Dyson said.
“But the future goal is to one day be playing AFLW.”
For now, the talented defender’s focus is on the final four games of the Demons season as the side fights for a place in the 2019 VFLW finals.
Currently sitting in 9th on the ladder, Casey is coming off its best game of the season thumping the NT Thunder by 65 points in Alice Springs last Saturday night in an impressive performance.
With another massive contest against potential premiership side Southern Saints on Sunday afternoon, the Demons will need another dominant performance, but Dyson believes the team is hitting their stride at the right time of the year.
“It is definitely going to be a tough game against the Saints, but our team is in a really good place at the moment,” Dyson said.
“The game against the Thunder was only the start for us… If we continue playing our style and continue improving, then we won’t have any issues.
“I know we will play hard, we will play as a team, and whatever the result we will know we have given it our all.”