DURING SATURDAY’S game against Hawthorn, Casey Demons utility Amanda McDonough added another string to her increasingly impressive bow of football abilities, this time as a tagger.
Head coach Damien Keeping challenged Amanda with the responsibility of shutting down one of the Hawks key playmakers, a challenge she flourished in.
“I really enjoyed the challenge on the weekend,” McDonough told Melbourne Media.
“It was probably one of the most enjoyable games I have ever played.
“I am happy to be a tagger… I feel like my defensive pressure and my work rate are my strengths on the football field… So, I am definitely happy to play any role that comes my way.”
After playing forward and through the midfield for head coach Keeping this season, Saturday saw Amanda tasked with stifling Hawthorn midfielder Rosie Dillon, one of the most proficient ball winners in the VFLW league, was always going to be a tall order.
But Amanda not only limited her opponent’s impact on the contest, successfully completing her task, but also put together one of the best games of her career as she continues to grow on the football field.
Now in her second year in the Casey program, McDonough recalls it has been a journey to get to Casey Fields.
“My first year of football, I was 22, I played two seasons then I had five seasons off,” McDonough said.
“I was looking to get back into football a few years ago because I have a pretty high-pressure job.
“So football is good to be able to switch off from that by getting out there and playing.
“In 2017, I joined Cranbourne, I played one season there, and then in my second year of returning to footy I was on the Casey Demons list.”
Joining the Demons for their inaugural year, Amanda has become a beloved member of the squad and recalls being immediately impressed by the program and the dedication to the team and the continued improvements of the club.
“I didn’t have any expectations [before I joined], only because I was used to local footy,” McDonough recalls.
“I had been involved in the men’s senior footy behind the scenes, where it has a lot more structure than local women’s footy at a local level.
“So, I didn’t have any expectations, but coming into Casey, the club has definitely exceeded any expectations I could have had with what the program has to offer.
“Even the step up from last year to this year, even from the whole team, the coaching staff, the high-performance team… [The club] has definitely gone to the next level.”
The Demons side has rallied all year behind a singular team-first attitude and playing their individual parts for the collective greater good, evident in every game Casey fans have watched this year but being “stronger together” goes beyond the field for McDonough.
“I think stronger together means playing your role each week, making sure you are playing your role to get your job done,” McDonough said.
“Then you help getting everyone else’s role done... Obviously, if we are stronger together and stick together then play our brand of footy, then ultimately it shows on the scoreboard and the outcome on the day.
“This is the most enjoyable year I have had playing footy.
“I feel like all of the girls there are really driven to get the same outcome.
“We really get around each other… I am really enjoying my football.”
Whether her teammates are celebrating ‘Doughy’ or ‘Donut’, McDonough has become an influential force in promoting the “stronger together” mantra and motto around the team, a motto that was on full display in Saturday’s game against the reigning premiers, as Amanda knew her teammates would be there to help her lockdown her opponent.
“Everyone definitely helped me get my role done on Saturday,” McDonough said.
“I found that so much easier, everyone knew what my role was, and I knew what everyone else’s role was… Even if I got lost the team would point me in the right direction.”
McDonough’s game continues to evolve every time she pulls on the red and blue jumper, something she credits to the increased competition she gets to test herself against in every match in the VFLW.
“You can definitely see on the field who is an AFLW player, and it gives you a good idea when you run with them as you can learn so much from sticking on one of those girls and seeing how they read the play,” McDonough said.
“Learn where they run to, and they generally take you to the footy, but I always try and not get beaten in a contest by any opponent.
“The whole level of football across the entire VFLW and the sport continues to grow each year… The competition and the competitiveness only gets stronger each season.”
While this Sunday’s game against the NT Thunder will bring an end to the Demons 2019 season, and while finals football has eluded the squad this year, Amanda still knows the team is working hard right to the very end.
“I think the focus for the last few games, and the whole season for us, has been about the marginal gains,” McDonough said.
“Each game we can still improve… Try and do better each week.
“Setting yourself a target and try and reach those targets.
“While it is the last game of the season for us, there are definitely things we can work towards and improve on.”
But while the season comes to an end this weekend, Amanda won’t stop working towards her goals on the field.
“I want to keep playing the best footy I can, being a bit of an older player, I am happy playing at the VFLW level,” McDonough said.
“I want to keep playing VFLW as long as I can.
“As long as I keep contributing to the team and doing the team first things, then hopefully I can keep playing VFLW footy next year.
“I want to keep playing the best footy I can at the best club.”
Casey Demons fans hope to see Amanda tagging opponents for many seasons to come at Casey Fields.