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Players' perspectives: What happens when you don't get selected in the senior team?

Isadora McLeay and Imogen Evans are AFLW players currently taking part in an internship at Disney and ESPN, where they are given the opportunity to gain real-life work experience while having the flexibility to pursue their footballing goals and aspirations.

This week, the girls let you in on what life is like being overlooked for a spot in the seniors in the AFLW, and, given there are not enough players for 'reserves' matches, how the week plays out.


Imogen Evans, Collingwood

Selection is a scary word for most athletes, but hey, it was in the job description.

The life of players outside the selected 21 is stressful. Mostly induced by the ticking time bomb that is the AFLW season length.

To put our best foot forward each week, our opportunities emerge within training and our 'development games', or what we call 'scrimmages'.

Scrimmages are games organised by clubs, played by overlooked AFLW players, from three or more sides as well as subsequent train-ons to make up numbers.

Not all clubs participate as some opted against.

Having a bench is a luxury in these games.

For those wondering, only two teams' guernseys are worn, meaning players will often don enemy colours every other week depending on who's hosting.

These games vary in length and are usually played before an official AFLW match.

Scrimmages are the best of a bad situation. Without them, players could go a whole season without playing a game. But they have their drawbacks.

Firstly, it's extremely difficult to play any kind of structure or adhere to a specific role because you're playing on a team with girls you might never have met, and who have agendas and team game plans of their own to follow.

In addition, we're all trying to impress our respective coaches, so playing 'team football' is difficult at the best of times.

The variability in the constructed teams each week is the most frustrating. I believe consistency between combining teams would provide more opportunity for quality football rather than chucking random players together and hoping some sort of connection emerges.

Currently, the VFLW begins at the same time as the VFL and continues for 14 home and away games.

In an ideal world, the VFLW season would align with AFLW to forge a similar development set up as the AFL and VFL.

In which case the AFLW season must be extended, or if not, brought forward to start at the same time as the VFLW, so AFLW athletes can play proper games with consistent teammates, structure, and coaching.

Then when the AFLW season inevitably finishes early, the VFLW would just continue without the inclusion of AFLW players.

Even though scrimmage matches are the best the competition can muster at this point, it seriously hinders a player's ability to develop their game.

Isadora McLeay, GWS

In the world of professional sport not everyone is able to play 'ones', unfortunately that is just reality.

The opportunity to prove yourself good enough to work into an AFLW side is harder than most think.

This year, players have been fortunate enough to play scrimmage games in which they are joined by girls from other teams to prove themselves for selection.

It's a setup which is better than in previous seasons from my experience; last year, players not selected would have to complete a training session with very low numbers but replicate the same kilometers run in a game.

For teams such as the GWS Giants, players fly in and out to different states to play these games on the day and join a brand-new team each week.

The other week, my teammates and I got on an 8am flight for an 11:30am game in Melbourne, but start times can be loose. How it goes can also depend on how organised these scrimmages are, and how inviting the team you're joining is.

On this occasion, our warm-up was cut short to just 10 minutes, and at one stage we didn't even have footballs, so girls were doing imaginary handballs to get the technique right.

Yes, you read that right.

I have played in scrimmages where there was no umpire, so a team's strength and conditioning coach is the sole judge of free kicks.

To develop AFLW, there must be a second-tier competition for players to prove their skills, like seen in the men's competition there is a serious VFL league where success can be hunted, and teammates and coaches know each other.

To have good depth allows for a competition to grow, not only does it motivate players to work harder, but also creates less of an injury toll on teams.

Injury is a big burden on AFLW sides, and when big stars are ruled out it can derail a team's season; better developed players allow for more holes to be filled.

For AFLW players to improve, having more game time is going to do that; an ill-run scrimmage game makes local football look like the professional standard.