WHEN she was 14, potential number one pick Ellie McKenzie toured Richmond's headquarters as part of a talent search day.
Come November, the classy, line-breaking midfielder with a pin-point kick could well find her way back to Punt Road for the start of pre-season via the NAB AFLW Draft on October 6.
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"I got linked there somehow through (Tigers' head of women's footy) Kate Sheahan and some people at Richmond, they'd seen me play or something. There were about 20 of us invited," McKenzie told womens.afl.
"We got a tour of the facilities and it was amazing to be in that elite environment and get a sense of what it would be like to play at an AFLW club.
"Little did I know that maybe I'd be at a similar club in four or five years."
The McKenzies are a "sports-mad" family, with 20-year-old older brother Tom having spent a year on North Melbourne's rookie list in 2019. He has also been a handy ally during the COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne.
"He was at the Roos for a year and was unlucky, he was delisted after a season-long back injury. He learnt a lot there, and it was good for me to be able to watch him go about pre-season and see what's required to play at that elite level," McKenzie said.
"I'm really fortunate to have him, and he's really supported me through this draft process as well.
"It's been difficult when you're by yourself and you need self-motivation to keep your training up. During the first lockdown, my brother and I bought a few weights and made a set-up out in the backyard."
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Listening to McKenzie - an All Australian at last year's NAB AFLW under-18 championships - it's clear she's a student of football, as well as sport in general.
Her favourite players are often aligned to specific traits she admires and works to emulate, while she's just finished watching the Netflix documentary "The Playbook", focusing on championship-winning coaches from around the world.
"Growing up, my idol was always Isaac Smith, with his running ability on the wing and his long left-foot kick. When I was a kid, I was playing a lot on the wing, so I looked up to him a lot," she said.
"These days, I try and simulate what Katie Brennan does as a forward, I aspire to achieve her marking ability, she's got a great kick as well.
"In the AFL, I think Steele Sidebottom is amazing; his ability to kick on both feet is really special and you don't see that often in AFL or AFLW."
Having also played cricket and athletics growing up, McKenzie played her footy with Fitzroy junior football club before her selection at NAB League club Northern Knights.
The colour of their team polo aside, the Knights have been in a purple patch over the past few years, finishing runners-up in 2018 and winning the flag in 2019, with five girls – including number one selection Gabby Newton – drafted in that same year.
The year 12 student at Maribyrnong College has had her fair share of Zoom calls with interested AFLW clubs over the past few weeks and is trying to reframe her thinking around a potential pick one selection.
"There's a lot of pressure surrounding it. For me, the most important thing is to try to stay present and enjoy this moment and the next few weeks," McKenzie said.
"I'm just really fortunate that I can back myself and don't have to worry about not being drafted.
"I've spoken to Gabby a little bit, she's been great and has a lot of knowledge in the area. I've been trying to use her and a few other girls from the Knights.
"Vic Metro have been great as well, talking me through the process and calming me a little when I'm a bit stressed."
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