From shooting hoops to kicking goals: New Blue's winding road to AFLW

NOT MANY players can say they've turned down the opportunity to play for their country in order to play football.

But Carlton draftee Vaomua Laloifi chose the oval ball over representing Samoa in basketball, with the appeal of a future beyond the court winning out.

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The 26-year-old, who goes by "Mua", was born in the island nation and spent many of her formative years in New Zealand, before calling Australia home.

"My boss at Vic Uni coached footy at Old Xavs (in the VAFA) and I was just kicking a ball around reception, saying it was pretty easy," she said, pausing then laughing.

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"I didn't know what to do when I went down in 2017. I'd watched a couple of games, but in terms of being on the field, what the goal and point posts meant, I didn't even know why there were three spaces for people to kick at.

"She said to catch it and kick it if I want, and to run. She said I could bounce the ball if I wanted, and because I play basketball, I tried to bounce it every step."

Mua Laloifi in action for the Western Bulldogs in the VFLW last season. Picture: AFL Photos

Laloifi quickly adapted to footy, developing a reputation as a dogged defender who can run off her opponent and cause chaos further up the ground.

She attended a trial day with Collingwood's VFLW side – having barracked for the Pies because the colours mirrored that of the All Blacks – playing five games in 2018 before rupturing her ACL.

"It was then I got selected for the Samoan squad in basketball, but it was real quick in my return to sport," Laloifi said.

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"They were very understanding of what I wanted to do, as much as I would have loved to have played for my country, I had to think about what I wanted to do for myself after basketball.

"It was a hard decision and my parents weren't too rapt about it, but I'm hoping they'll get over it after watching the game."

Teaching her parents about football has needed to be fast-tracked, with Laloifi expected to make her AFLW debut for Carlton on Friday night against Richmond.

"My parents are very confused about the whole game. After the practice match last week, Dad was like, 'Good game. I was confused'," she said.

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"Mum was like 'Why do they hit you from the side? And then the other side? And on the ground?'

"It's been a huge step from VFLW in terms of the conditioning and the intensity in every drill, no matter if you're warming up or game sim, you bring the same heat. The first two weeks, the body definitely felt it."

Blues officials were already confident they wanted Laloifi in their 2020 squad based on VFLW form (she had moved to the Western Bulldogs for the 2019 season) but were sold in the opening few minutes of a recruitment chat with the bubbly defender.

"Mua has brought unparalleled energy, that's what she's brought to our group," coach Daniel Harford said.

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"She's a fantastic young woman, with great energy and great personality. We're still going to teach her the game a little bit, but she's got a lot to give in terms of a footy perspective from a defensive element.

"She is great energy, she's high-octane, she's exciting to watch, she's great to coach and she's a great teammate. They're pretty positive traits for the start of her career."

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