2020 vision: Former Docker helping Eagles plan for life in AFLW

WEST Coast star recruit Dana Hooker is using her experience from three years in the NAB AFLW competition to help her new club plan its opening assault.

The Eagles will enter the AFLW for the first time in 2020, along with fellow expansion clubs Gold Coast, Richmond and St Kilda.

As part of their initial recruiting drive, the Eagles landed two-time All Australian Hooker along with seven of her Fremantle teammates – Ashlee Atkins, Melissa Caulfield, Kellie Gibson, Brianna Green, Courtney Guard (nee Stubbs), Alicia Janz and Parris Laurie – in rules set out by the AFL to ensure expansion clubs had access to established talent.

Dana Hooker will be employed across three divisions at West Coast

Former Docker Cassie Davidson also joined the Eagles in a trade separate to the eight expansion signings.

"AFLW is completely different to the men's, because the girls have work and study commitments during the day," Hooker told womens.afl.

"Our contract only allows us a set number of hours we can come in, and I've been helping West Coast plan how to really best maximise that from a training point of view and what's going to work holistically for the players' wellbeing.

"It's simple things like not having your track days on the same day as your lift (gym) days. We'd be on the track then go to the gym and do a lift session with the strength and conditioning staff, but you find you wouldn't leave till 10 o'clock at night. 

"You're almost better off going in for more sessions a week but for shorter periods of time."

Hooker, who played every possible game for Fremantle over her three seasons – 21 and a preliminary final this year – said simplicity was the key to success in AFLW.

"You need to first consider how messaging and coaching will best suit females and then the timeframe you've got and the turnover year to year," she said.

"It's got a really short timeframe in pre-season, essentially 12 weeks before the season starts, you have to keep your game plan really simple and easy for all the new players to be on the same page.

"You can have the best game plan in the world, but if no one can execute it, it's not really worth too much."

The 28-year-old mother of Alice (who was born just five months before the start of the first AFLW pre-season), said the greater off-field security West Coast offered appealed when making the decision to leave Fremantle.

Hooker is employed across three divisions at West Coast: media and communications, community engagement and AFLW.

"I think one thing people don't always appreciate is there's not just the playing aspect. People say, 'how could you leave the team you've built a bond with for three years?' and that's probably the hardest aspect," Hooker said.

"You've got this connection and family you've built, and when you're enjoying your time there, it's hard to move out of there and into a new opportunity.

"I had to think about what had better career opportunities long-term, and what was presented to me from Fremantle differed a little bit in that respect.

"West Coast could see a really long-term plan for me there at the club well after my playing years, which was something that really drew me in."

Most of the Eagles' AFLW squad of 18 are training together once a week (notable exceptions being Irish rookies Grace and Niamh Kelly), along with 10 to 12 hopefuls who are members of the club's female open-age academy.

West Coast can sign these academy players to its senior list until the end of August, along with one remaining rookie spot for someone who has not been on a football list for the past three years.

"We're getting to know each other and the staff and building those relationships pretty early. The vibe in the group is really positive, the girls get along really well, there are quite similar personalities in the group as well, just 'get down to business' type people," Hooker said.

"I previously played Emma Swanson, she went across to GWS and she's come home. I'm looking forward to getting back on the park with her, we played some state footy together early on and got on really well.

"Belinda Smith, she was one from Fremantle who went across to the Bulldogs for season three, she's recovering from an Achilles injury, but she's back home which is great.

"Kate Bartlett has come home and she's going to be finding her feet at West Coast. I think it's really good for those girls (including ex-Lion McKenzie Dowrick) to come back, they're going to be relaxed and around family support, so that's only going to mean better things on-field for them."

Dana Hooker, in action for the Dockers last season, will be a terrific addition to the Eagles

Hooker, a star midfielder whose pace and endurance has led her to consecutive second-place finishes in the AFLW best and fairest, is relishing coming into her fourth year in an elite environment.

"I remember having a conversation early with some of Fremantle's staff, and they said it would take three years for our bodies to get used to the loading and to be able to give you the output you need," she said.

"It's now exciting to see what my body can produce and the improvements every year, and the resilience of my body to be able to sustain that level of training and then be adding to it.

"I know my body is a lot more accustomed to training and it's great, it's exciting. I love training and continually getting more out of it."

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