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AFLW prospect thrives after gaining courage

with Sarah Black (AFL Media)  October 10, 2017 4:50 PM

AFLW 2017 U18 Championships - Vic  Country v Vic Metro

GEELONG, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 17: Maddy Guerin of Vic Metro during the 2017 AFLW Under 18 Championships match between Vic Country and Vic Metro at Simonds Stadium, Geelong on June 17, 2017 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)

AFTER finally summoning the courage to play footy, Maddy Guerin is thriving after enjoying the benefits of training in elite environments.

One of the top young Victorian prospects at this month’s NAB AFL Women's Draft, the midfielder is comparatively new to the game.

The 17-year-old tried a variety of sports, including netball, athletics and basketball, before finding her niche with the oval ball at Fitzroy Junior Football Club when she was in year nine. 

"When I was in primary school, my younger brother played footy. I always wanted to play as well, but I was intimidated playing with the boys," Guerin said.

"Finally, there was an under-15 team of just girls introduced. At the start, it was just enjoyable because I was with my school friends. Further on in the year, our coach asked if any of us wanted to try out for the Calder Cannons academy [at the time one of only a handful of regional development squads]." 

Guerin has quickly risen through the ranks, making the Cannons squad before training with Vic Metro as an emergency the following year, at just 15. 

"I trained with [Vic Metro] under Wayne Siekman [now Collingwood coach], all the way from pre-season until they left for the national championships. I was a bit disappointed but I knew I'd only played football for less than a year, so I knew I had a long way to go." 

For such a calm and settled person off the field, Guerin – who represented Vic Metro at this year’s NAB AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships – is almost manic on it. Years of athletics combined with natural ability means she has speed to burn. 

Vic Metro coach Andrew Shakespeare said Guerin's pace immediately draws the eye. 

"She's worked really hard on her kicking and she's now able to deliver the ball at speed, which is really exciting to see," Shakespeare said.

"I watched the TAC Cup this year and that's the thing that jumped out. All of a sudden, we've seen some development in other areas of her game. She's becoming a quality young footballer." 

This year saw the first fully-fledged girls' TAC Cup competition played, mirroring the boys' 12-team format. It meant the top under-18 girls could represent their regions and get access to high-quality coaching. 

The competition was played over a short, five-week season in March-April, with Guerin finishing as the Northern Knights' best and fairest winner. 

"It was very intense, having to juggle it with school as well (Guerin is in year 12 at Princes Hill Secondary College in Melbourne's inner north)," she said.

"There was a bit of time management involved, but it was a great experience. 

"It was over before you'd really gotten into it, so I hope next year or the year after it can go for longer, because everyone improved so much. It was an elite environment [and better] than what we we’re used to."

Guerin is a versatile player. Sitting next to her coach Shakespeare during a break in the last phase of the under-18 carnival on the Gold Coast, she said with a grin she'd happily play wherever a team needs her. 

But she eventually admitted she most enjoys the rough-and-tumble of a midfield role. 

"I've switched around quite a lot over the past few months, but I'd probably say my favourite is on the ball, because you're in the middle and you're amongst it. It's just good fun," she said. 

"That's where I play at club level and it's easy there, but bringing that up to an elite level when your opponent is right on you is more of a challenge. You have to learn all the tricks to get out of packs and improve."

Shakespeare is a fan of Guerin's attitude to getting better. 

"She's extremely coachable, so you see change and real growth from game to game. It's exciting from a coach's point of view. Maddy's really absorbed with the game and it shows. 

"She’s able to break lines … and she's developing as an onballer. She's quite versatile and damaging." 

Guerin's strong final year of junior footy was capped off when she was named captain of the Yarra Junior Football League youth girls' team of the year.

She has been working hard off the field too, combining year 12 chemistry and maths methods – she plans to study science – with workouts at Western Bulldogs captain Katie Brennan's gym, KB Performance. 

"I work on all sorts of things like speed, power and strength programs specifically for girls. 

"[AFLW stars] Mel Hickey and Daisy Pearce have been around to mentor me – it's unreal. Katie helps me so much. She takes me for goalkicking sessions and helps me one-on-one. She's just great." 

Guerin would fit well in a team looking for speedy half-back flankers, such as Carlton and Collingwood. 

"My major strength would be my ability to run and carry, and just get that acceleration out of the contest," she said. 

"I find my kicking has gotten a lot better. I've got quite a long kick and I'm trying to be more accurate with it. I can jump too, so that helps me with overhead marking."

The NAB AFL Women's Draft will be held in Melbourne on October 18, with a live stream on AFL.com.au/womens from 12pm.