RECENT Richmond AFLW signing Alice Edmonds was mid-mouthful at the 2018 VFL Women's best and fairest dinner when her name was called out for the VFLW Team of the Year.
"I didn't even know it was a thing," she laughed.
The 21-year-old had just finished her first season in the competition, a dominant year in the ruck for Richmond, and told womens.afl she wasn't expecting the accolade.
She wasn't expecting to be elevated to the Tigers' inaugural AFLW side for the upcoming 2020 season either.
"I had my first year [in VFLW] last year which was awesome, and then got signed for [AFLW] next year – they haven't been able to get rid of me," Edmonds said.
Standing at 189cm with impressive athleticism developed on the basketball court, Edmonds fell in love with footy after joining friends at a training session in year 10.
"I think it was the physicality of it, it was something different," she said.
Her rapid ascent has been "pretty surreal", particularly now her teammates include two established AFLW stars.
The Western Bulldogs duo of captain Katie Brennan and 2018 Grand Final best-on-ground winner Monique Conti arrived at Tigerland during this year's AFLW sign and trade period, the star pair set to lead Richmond into its first AFLW season.
"It's pretty crazy, you talk to people who ask, 'do you know Katie Brennan?' and you sort of pinch yourself, like 'yeah, I actually play with her'," Edmonds said with a smile.
"Seeing such influential faces of AFLW three or four times a week, it does really set that standard and all the other girls aspire to be like them."
"You can see that there's a difference in the intensity. I think our VFLW girls have been able to match that though, so it's been great having them around to set that standard for us to meet."
There have been a few 'pinch yourself' moments for Edmonds since her arrival at Punt Road, honing her ruck skills under the expert eye of Richmond CEO and VFLW ruck coach, Brendon Gale.
"Obviously he has a lot of priorities around the club, being the top dog, but to be able to take the time to come and work with us girls … it's been really beneficial," Edmonds said.
Gale's attention hasn't gone unrewarded, his main charges (Edmonds and ruck utility Gabby Seymour) both elevated to the Tigers' AFLW list.
The structure of the football club environment suits Edmonds' nature – her off-field decisions to join the Australian Defence Force and now the Victoria Police Academy reflect a preference for routine.
"I must come across like I'm really strict or something, but I'm not, I just really like structure," she said with a grin.
"I find that with my footy too, I like having structure and I work really well around keeping busy. I get sworn in [to Victoria Police] soon which is exciting, it becomes a bit official."
The demands of footy alongside a full-time job hasn't dampened Edmonds' enthusiasm for the game.
"You get into a routine where there's just a lot of pre-planning involved. You leave home at 6am and get back at 10pm, so you know you have to pack three outfits, four meals – you get used to it," she said.
"It is challenging at the start but it's good to have those outside interests too. I find that coming to training is a release … it's a bit of an outlet."
The opportunity to be part of Richmond's first ever AFLW side is worth the sacrifices for Edmonds.
"We're lucky … we're able to be the first girls to start from the ground up. In a couple of years' time girls aren't going to have the opportunity to do that, so I think it's something really unique," she said.
"That's something we'll be able to look back on and think ‘yeah that's pretty cool, I was there from the start'."
It's obvious why Edmonds is a popular member of the Tigers' squad, with her cheerfulness and excitement to be playing footy written all over her face.
She chuckles when asked about the wooden giraffe on her keyring – it's almost as eye-catching as her imposing 189cm frame.
"Mum just went to Africa and brought it back for me," she said.
"She said 'I saw it and thought of you'… bit rough, but it's a pretty funny joke."