ALL THE hours spent driving on the Hume Highway were worth it when Shepparton product Grace Egan learned she had been drafted by Carlton.
Recruited with pick No.13 through the AFLW club academy early-bidding process, the explosive midfielder will join the Blues from Richmond in 2020.
CHECK IT OUT The entire 2020 fixture
Egan has had her sights set on a professional career ever since she swapped basketball shoes for footy boots four years ago, but her path to the League has not been without sacrifice.
Three times a week she made the five-hour round trip between northern Victoria and Punt Road Oval to play for the inaugural Richmond VFLW team in 2018.
Despite missing out on the NAB AFLW Draft that year, Egan made the permanent move down to Melbourne, determined to earn a spot on an AFLW list.
"If I wanted to perform and get drafted, I knew I had to work harder, do all of those extra little things and recover properly," Egan said.
As Egan's confidence grew in 2019, her improvement was sharp, averaging 13 disposals and three tackles in her twelve games.
She finished sixth in the Tigers VFLW best and fairest in company with AFLW-listed stars like Katie Brennan, Monique Conti and Sabrina Frederick, and her hard work was rewarded in September when she received a call from Carlton coach Daniel Harford.
Richmond had nominated to promote Egan to their senior list, but the Blues swooped, valuing her so highly they took her with a first-round selection.
"You just look back on everything and think it was all worth it," Egan said.
"All those car rides. That one day you didn't want to go but did. It's amazing to achieve something you've been wanting to for a long time."
After playing her first few VFLW games on the wing, the speedster was moved into the midfield where she played the remainder of the season.
"I'd love for that to be my position forever and I'll do everything I can to make sure that's where I play," Egan said.
If Egan is to cement a spot in the Blues midfield, she, along with No. 2 pick Lucy McEvoy, will join an exciting group of young onballers.
"Maddy Prespakis is a role model to me. She's really good at what she does and I hope to be running around in the centre with her," she said.
Carlton will open the 2020 NAB AFLW season when it hosts Richmond at Ikon Park in February, a matchup Egan has been thinking about since the fixture was released.
"It's going to be such a big game. The season opener, on Friday night, against my old team and some of my best mates. I'm super excited but I'm also really nervous," Egan said.
"That will to be my motivation; all pre-season will be about focusing on round one."
To calm the nerves, Egan will likely turn to Leigh; her Dad and number one supporter.
"He was a world champion BMX rider so he understands the pressure of professional sport," she said.
Leigh Egan won two titles at the Japan IBMXF World Championships in 1984 and was widely regarded as Australia's first 'elite' rider.
"He's pretty much the reason I am where I am. He's at every game and knows every stat inside out," Egan said.
"He was always the one to motivate me and I don't think I would've made it onto an AFLW list if it wasn't for him pushing me along."