It has been a big year for the Casey Demons, with the club recording its most successful VFLW season since the start of the competition.
Making finals for the first time, and now having three players drafted to AFLW clubs at the end of the season, is only further complement to the program being run out at Casey Fields.
The three lucky players selected in this year’s NAB AFL Women’s Draft were Imogen Milford (Pick 26 - Carlton), Alison Brown (Pick 45 - Melbourne) and only a few months ago, Eliza West was signed as a Rookie to Melbourne after a stellar season.
Milford certainly caught the eye of talent managers, coming second in the goalkicking with 19 majors for the season, including a six-goal haul against Box Hill in round seven. Nerves played a part in the lead up to the NAB AFL Women’s Draft for the new Carlton draftee.
“Like anyone in this position, I was super nervous and just not knowing what was going to happen,” Milford told Melbourne Media.
“I had conversations with a few clubs, and the one with Carlton stood out the most and felt super positive. Carlton didn’t promise me anything as plenty can happen on draft night.
“There was an abundance of nerves, and maybe a few tears of joy when my name got read out, but the whole experience was certainly as much exciting as it was nervous.”
“At the end of the day it didn’t matter to me what number I went at; I was just hoping to be drafted.”
Athletic key defender Brown is no stranger to these events, as she had previously been on Carlton and St Kilda’s AFLW lists and was not really expecting to be selected at all.
“I had made my peace if I wasn’t going to be selected,” Brown said.
“I didn’t have any expectations, which meant I wasn’t nervous or anything leading up to the night - I would say that I was nervous on the night though.”
All three were in praise of the football program running at the Demons, saying the support they received enabled them to further improve as players and help get closer to the dream of being selected by an AFLW club.
“The program itself, and the biggest thing that helped me as a player was the support I received from everyone around the club,” Milford said.
“I was only able to play three games of VFLW at my previous clubs and the difference this time was the support I received and belief that helped so much.
“Ben Friggi was there to help me do the little things and would including practising my goal kicking, and it was that support from Ben and the other coaches that have helped me get where I am today, and I am very grateful for that.”
Brown was certainly in the same frame of mind about the belief she was able to get reinstalled in her own self.
“It was great when I came to Casey, from the first training session I was really enjoying myself,” she said.
“Pete (Peter Mercoulia - Casey Demons Coach) did a really good job of coaching the group and I learnt a lot and it came out in my performances.
“I started to find some form and played a lot better towards the end of the season.
“The coaches were able to address some of my shortcomings in my game, and they had some belief in me which gave me the confidence to play a little more aggressive defence.”
Eliza West’s journey started back in June when she was signed by Melbourne as a rookie.
Averaging 22 disposals per game, she regularly featured in the Demons’ best and credits her form to the program.
“Everyone has been very helpful,” West said.
“Pete, in particular, has put in a lot of work with me, before training doing plenty of skills and he has been a huge part in developing my game and I’m super thankful he has helped me.
“All the girls from the start have also been really helpful and patient with me. I’ve made a lot of mistakes being that it was my first year.
“I’m really looking forward to it and can’t wait to start training with all the girls and getting stuck into it.”
All three certainly would not be here if it wasn’t for key people in their lives, helping them along the way in their journey and being big influences on their careers to date.
“I would say my younger brother Bryce [has been big support]. He still plays footy himself out at the Dandenong Stingrays,” Milford said.
“When I started playing football, we both went through the Suns’ academy together and would train alongside each other.
“At times when I found it tough, he would be there to push me along, help me with improving my skills and goalkicking.
“And also, my partner Emma, she has been to every game this year and been a really fantastic support for me.”
Sticking with the family theme, West said her dad had played a big part in her career so far.
“Since starting football, Dad will go out and have a kick with me, and watch my match footage,” she said.
“He talks to me all the time on where I should be and what to do on the field and has helped so much.”
For Brown, it’s more been about the teammates and friendships she has made.
“In general, it has probably been my teammates along the way,” she said.
“At the end of the day I play footy as I enjoy it and the best part of that is playing the game with my teammates and continuing to improve.
“I’ve met so many people that I have so much in common with and now have friends for life.”