AFTER playing all seven matches for Melbourne in the inaugural AFLW season in 2017, Harriet Cordner was delisted at the end of last season.
Later reclaimed as a free agent, the granddaughter of legendary Melbourne figure, 1946 Brownlow Medal winner, Don Cordner, had to bide her time, before she got a recall to the senior team this season.
Playing her first game of the 2018 AFLW season in round four – Melbourne’s disappointing loss to Collingwood at TIO Traeger Park – Cordner emerged as one of the bright spots from a tough night. And she backed it up against the Brisbane Lions at Casey Fields last Friday night, where she has impressed down back.
“It was really good to get back out there against Collingwood in Alice Springs, but it wasn’t good to not get the win,” Cordner told melbournefc.com.au.
Entering this season, the 25-year-old said her focus was to lock down a position in defence.
“It was a position I really saw myself playing. I was new to the sport last year and I didn’t really know where I fitted in and what position suited me best. But the few games I played in the VFL season, after the first AFLW season, I played down back, which is where I played in soccer,” she said.
“I enjoyed reading the game, and defending comes pretty naturally to me. Being a defender is always exciting, because you’re doing a lot of tackling and body-on-body work, which is my favourite part of the game.
“We’ve got some really experienced players down back, which I’m learning from and being able to play alongside them is really helping my game.”
Cordner said having to watch on from the sidelines early in the season was tough, but she still took plenty from it.
“It was definitely a difficult start to the season compared to last year. Not playing allowed me to watch the girls and it gave me a chance to better prepare myself, when I was given that opportunity,” she said.
“I was able to do a couple of intense one-on-one sessions with some of the coaches and that helped me. I trained with real intensity and they were able to make them as game-like as possible. That set me up for when I was given my opportunity.
“The standard has gone up and to be able to see that from the outside meant that when I came in for the Collingwood game, I was ready to take it on. That was the only approach I could have – there was no point being disappointed at not playing earlier.”
Having switched from soccer, Cordner acknowledged it took some adjustment crossing codes last season.
“I came into the sport and the club last year with maybe a bit of external pressure,” she said.
“Being selected in the team every week meant that it came to me, whereas this year, I’ve really had to hone in on the things I want to get better at. The competition has got better as well, so it’s forced everyone to get better.
“Having a bigger list with depth means that inevitably eight people are going to miss out each week. Last year with injuries, we had one or two missing out. But there is a tendency to maybe take your spot for granted a bit, but this year, having missed out on the first three rounds, it’s put an extra fire in my belly to want to be out there.
She also came to Melbourne carrying the Cordner name – one of the greatest families to play the game, and certainly at the Demons – which drew some excited attention among the football fraternity.
Seven Cordners have played for Melbourne, with David (53 matches from 1952-57) being the most recent. Four Cordner brothers played 376 matches combined (Don 166 from 1941-50, Ted P. 52 from 1941-43 and 1946, Denis 152 from 1943, 1948-56 and John six in 1951).
Harriet said she “definitely” felt some expectation entering the game.
“Definitely. For me personally, I had to learn how to play the game. I had to do the pre-season in a sport I’d never played before, even though I’d come from a family with a very strong football background,” she said.
“It was very different from watching it to playing it, and I had to remind myself that people who weren’t involved didn’t know what was happening behind the scenes or the hard work we were doing.
“It was about narrowing your focus and not getting distracted by the talk, which is easier said than done. I’ve got better at that this year.”
Reflecting on the win over the Lions last round, Cordner said it gave the team plenty of confidence heading into this Sunday’s clash against Carlton at Ikon Park.
“We were really happy with the fact that we played our style of footy, which is really important for us, because when we play that way, we can be really damaging,” she said.
“We don’t want to look any further than Sunday and we want to do everything in our power to give ourselves the best chance to go all the way.
“We can’t control anything other than our game against Carlton this week, so that’s what we’re looking at.”