IT IS RARE to find a footballer who has balance, poise, class and smarts, but the Demons have done just that.
Without putting too much pressure on a 14-game player, Tyla Hanks undeniably has the attributes to become a star of the AFLW competition.
She reads the play like few others can, manoeuvres through traffic with ease, and weights the ball to advantage consistently by foot.
And the most exciting part: she’s just getting started.
At 20 years of age, Hanks is still fresh on the scene, but the game is made for the youth, and she appears ready to rise in 2021.
“I think it’s probably taken me a little bit longer than some of those girls like (Maddy) Prespakis and what not, but I think I’ve got a really good pre-season behind me so far,” Hanks told Melbourne Media.
“Even over the off-season, I worked a lot mentally and physically to put myself in a good position.
On the back of an aggressive Trade Period strategy, the Demons will be heading into the fifth season of the competition with a younger list than usual, having secured six 18-year-old's via the AFLW Draft.
And with the likes of Eden Zanker, Casey Sherriff and Shelley Heath beginning to find their feet, it could be time for the next generation to take over.
“Obviously we had a lot of change over which was hard, but … myself, and those girls you mentioned, have to step up now and there’s opportunity to do so,” Hanks said.
“I think you’ve probably seen in the pre-season so far, all those girls are training really well and probably impacting a lot more than they have previously.
“It’s given me a bit of a chance to step up and demand the footy a bit more too, which is good.”
While Hanks isn’t the loudest, nor the eldest, player on the Dees’ list, that won’t impact her ability to lead.
She has grown up with the sport and has a wealth of knowledge to share.
“That’s some of the adjustment I had to make,” she said.
“Even though I am one of the younger girls in the team, we’re the age group who have probably played just as much, if not more, footy, than some of the girls above us because we got to play all the way through.
“The experience level, some of us girls do have more of that in some ways.
“So I just need to back my experience and knowledge of footy, and share that either vocally or by the way I play.
Coming fifth in Melbourne’s Best and Fairest last season, it’s clear Hanks has made an impression inside the four walls of the club already.
And despite never quite reaching her best form in 2020, the former No.6 draft pick has come back refreshed and ready to attack her third season at the level.
“I know that I’ve got the skills, … it’s probably more on the mental side of things and backing myself and having the confidence to do it,” Hanks said.
“So that’s been the big area really, but I definitely want to take a big step this year.”