AN INVITATION to come for a kick with friends proved to be the catalyst for Casey Demons midfielder Melanie Hogg embarking on her promising football journey.
“I knew a few girls in the local team, and they were like ‘come down and have a kick’,” Hogg told Melbourne Media.
“I have loved football ever since.”
Now in her second year in the Casey system, the 20-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise on the football field.
After only beginning to play football in Year 11 with her school team, the former dancer and netballer went on to join the Eastern Ranges in the TAC Cup competition in the team’s inaugural year.
But with a desire to test herself at the next standard of football, Hogg “hung up the tap shoes and put on the footy boots” with a single-minded focus on her newfound love.
Attending an open day at Casey Fields determined to find the next challenge, the youngster recalls being invited to join the VFLW side came as a bit of a surprise.
“I wanted to take my footy more seriously and play in a better league,” Hogg said.
“That was the same year I came across the Melbourne tryouts and it all came into place really well.
“I got into Casey pretty last minute… Two weeks before the season started.
“Through a try-out they were running… I played a couple of practice matches with the team and they asked me back.”
She has now become an essential and beloved member of the Demons side, from providing tenacious intensity in the centre squares to the customary pre-match joke, Hogg has felt at home in the red and blue.
“When I came to Casey, I instantly felt welcomed and really comfortable,” Hogg said.
“The coaches were really supportive… They are able to tell you where you are at [with your skills] and your progress and what you need to work on… It has been really good so far.”
One reason Hogg credits for feeling at home, is the comradery and kinship between the entire playing group forming strong friendships off the field which results in a stronger team on the field.
“We ran a ‘Casey rookie day’ at the start of the year, which was a really good day where we could get to know each other off of the field,” Hogg said.
“I think that has really helped coming into the season… Because we can all have a bit of banter and joke around, but we know when we have to switch on.
“I think we all get along a lot better as friends, I think that makes a massive difference as a team… The team needs to get along off of the field before they can click on the field.”
The Demons side has rallied behind a belief in one another which is yielding an incredible team-first environment, an atmosphere Hogg feels like is bringing the best out of her and her teammates.
“You don’t just have one person playing in the team, we all need to work together,” Hogg said.
“That is following our team fundamentals, and if every one of us players follows those fundamentals then we are a lot stronger together.
“Like if someone is on the ground, pick them up… Support the small things, celebrate the small things.
“If someone makes a really good tackle or a really good block, we want to get around each other because it’s not all about the glory of scoring goals.”
Hogg continues to develop as a leader and as a player in 2019, averaging 8.3 disposals and 3.1 tackles in the eight Casey matches this season.
But some of her most impressive performances have come when she is competing with AFLW elite talents such as Brianna Davey and Jess Duffin, challenges the youngster has embraced head-on.
“Yeah I have enjoyed the challenges, it can be a bit terrifying playing up against the big names, like people you have been watching play on TV, you’re like ‘oh my gosh,’” Hogg said laughingly.
“But it has been just a great learning experience… I am learning from them and from my teammates.”
Mel speaks with an impressive passion and a drive hellbent on propelling her towards reaching her goals on the field, but she isn’t going to be left speculating on what could have been.
“I want to keep going at where I am at the moment,” she said.
“I just don’t want to be left thinking, ‘oh, I could have done this, or I could have done that’.
“I want to know that I have worked my ass off to get where I am.
“I don’t ever want to be left wondering what I could have been.”
That determination will continue driving Mel towards her goals.
“I guess playing AFLW would be awesome,” Hogg said.
“But if I keep playing VFLW then I am still really rapt with that because I think that is still an awesome accomplishment in itself.”
While a promising future lays ahead, for now, she is focused on the rest of Casey’s season as the team approaches the crossroads on its year currently sitting in ninth on the VFLW ladder, especially with a massive match-up against the Western Bulldogs this weekend.
“Although we haven’t been getting the wins, we have played really well against the top sides,” Hogg said.
“The thing I think we need to focus on the most is playing the full four quarters.
“But I think we are going to come in really strong and play really well.
“They do have a lot of big names in their side… But we won’t let that get to us, and we will play our brand of footy and hopefully play a full four quarters and compete really well against them.”