FROM HER FIRST ever football training, Casey Demons midfield Ruby Clayton knew she loved football, well actually her love for the game started well before her first training.
“I have always loved footy… I would always kick the footy with my Dad and my brother growing up,” Clayton told Melbourne Media.
“But I got into football through a friend… She told me to go to training at Beaconsfield Junior Football Club… From the first training I loved it!”
Clayton quickly established herself as a dominant player in the youth girls competition with Beaconsfield, booting 41 goals in 2016, before her stellar play earned her a place with the Dandenong Stingrays.
After impressing for the Stingrays, it wasn’t long before the Demons came calling for the 19-year-old.
“I got a phone call from Colin [Garland]… They wanted me to come and have a meeting with Melbourne AFLW-list manager Todd Patterson,” Clayton said.
“They had been watching some youth girl games and Dandenong Stingrays games… So, they called me up and I had a meeting with them, and from there I was at Casey.”
Becoming a foundation member of the Casey program, Ruby has become a vital member of the team and influential in building the remarkable Demons team-first culture.
“When I first came to the club, I didn’t have any expectations, because it was the first year of the Demons,” Clayton said.
“But I am definitely very happy with how it has all worked out.
“This year is already a massive step up from last year, and it is only getting better.
“I am loving my time here.”
For Ruby, the highlight of her Casey career came earlier this season when the Demons team-first attitude resulted in one of the best games in the club’s history.
“Going to Alice Springs and the Northern Territory with the girls and being able to share that experience with the team and how we played the game up there was probably my best highlight so far,” Clayton said.
“We are really big on our team first actions that we came up with as a team on the trip, and it is really showing on the field.”
The Round 10 match-up saw the Demons play an incredible game defeating the Thunder by 65 points, with Ruby adding to the dominant victory, but it was just being there which was the special moment for the youngster.
“It showed the most in the game in Alice Springs and even just sitting on the bench and watching it all unfold it was pretty special,” Clayton recalls.
“To be a part of the club and to have such a great bunch of girls to run out with and celebrate all those little things with, it is the best thing to be a part of at the club.”
In eight matches this season, Clayton has averaged 7.1 disposals, becoming a solid contributor in the Casey midfield especially in the second half of the season as she continues to deliver on her immense potential, something she credits to a focus on enjoying the game.
“I have continued to work on the little things in my game,” Clayton said.
“I have probably been overthinking how I have been playing.
“So I have taken a step back and really enjoying myself when I am out there on the field and not let one thing dampen the rest of my game.”
The renewed focus is resulting in Clayton playing the best football of her career, displayed in one of her best performance of the season against Darebin on Sunday, Clayton was instrumental in setting up scoring opportunities and making a crucial smother to trap the ball in the Demons forward 50 leading to the hard-fought victory.
One of the major motivators for Ruby’s play is going up against AFLW-listed opponents and getting the opportunity to challenge herself and continue to help her team.
“I personally try and not worry about my opponent, I think every opponent has their own strengths with the way they go about footy,” Clayton said.
“It is awesome to have the harder competition because it only pushes you to get better.
“I really enjoy it… I just try and worry about the way I go about my own footy and focus on what I can do for the team when I am out on the ground.”
Her outstanding play is driving Ruby towards her dream.
“I would love to get drafted,” Clayton said.
“I tried last year, but I wasn’t successful.
“But I am trying to improve my game so that I can get there.
“I want to be the best I can when I get to that level… I am not setting when I want to be drafted, but I am working on being ready for when I get to that level.
“But I do want to get there.”
Ruby speaks with a determination and drive which makes you believe she will not stop until she reaches her goals.
But while the next level lays ahead for the talented football, for now, her focus is on Casey’s final two regular-season games of season 2019.
“We started the year off pretty strong, we had a really good pre-season,” Clayton recalls.
“We started well winning the first three games, but then losing the next few was obviously sad.
“But we don’t want to end the season on disappointment… We are going to focus on the games ahead.
“We love playing footy where we can just focus on us… If we can just focus on our team-first actions that we have got, then at the end of the day, if we make finals or not, it doesn’t really matter at the moment.
“We are trying to focus on the last two games and finish strong in those.”
Knowing Ruby Clayton is lining up in the red and blue, the Demons fans know she will inspire team will give it their all.