SHELLEY Heath was supposed to be on a holiday with her mum in December, but an unexpected drafting caused a serious change of plans.
The 18-year-old had little hope heading into the draft and got a mighty surprise when she heard the news.
“I wasn’t even watching the draft to start with, so my boyfriend called me to tell me that I got drafted,” Heath told Melbourne Media.
“He was just so excited and firstly I didn’t believe anything he said.
“But then Todd (Patterson, Melbourne’s AFLW talent manager) messaged me and said that it actually just happened – it was crazy.”
Heath played a variety of football in 2018, but still didn’t think she’d be drafted onto an AFLW list.
“I played VFLW for St Kilda and then I played for the Dandenong Stingrays,” she said.
“But I only got talked to by Melbourne.
“All those other girls who got invited to the combine got talked to by every other club, so I thought my chances were quite slim.”
But with pick 44, the Demons selected the unsuspecting teenager.
And with high school coming to an end, Heath was ready to enjoy some time off and celebrate with a well-earned trip away.
“My mum booked a cruise for me to go on that she’s on right now because it was an end of year 12 thing,” Heath said.
“Now my sister is on the cruise that I was meant to go on.
“But it’s good to be here, I’m very excited.”
After finding out she would be pulling on the red and blue next season, Heath was able to celebrate with her school mates.
“All the teachers knew, and they told everyone,” she said.
“And then I had my valedictory, and everyone was coming up and congratulating me. It was awesome.”
The versatile 160cm player didn’t expect to be living life as a professional athlete so soon, but has settled into the club quickly.
“It’s a really good club to come into,” Heath said.
“The girls are all so welcoming and you feel like a part of the family as soon as you step foot inside.
“It’s harder than any other training that I’ve done but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“It’s the best experience and opportunity that I could ever ask for.”
But football hasn’t always been Heath’s sporting preference.
“I played a fair few sports,” she said.
“I played netball, basketball, taekwondo, tennis, swimming, dancing – probably all the sports you could name.
“I picked up footy when the girls comp became popular in Mornington when I was 15.
“And then I kept working on trying to get to the highest spot I could each year.”
The versatile small plans on playing a negating role in defence in 2019 and has set herself some targets for her debut season.
“My goal is to get my first game this year, that’s what I’m working towards,” Heath said.
“And getting super fit, being competitive and proving myself to all the other girls that I deserve to get a game as much as they do.”
Heath has been playing football for just three seasons so will continue to develop as a player in the coming seasons.