Coming into 2021, the NAB AFL Women's competition has Unfinished Business. Following the abrupt cancellation of the 2020 season at the end of March as COVID-19 restrictions hit the country, players are keen to make up for lost time. As well as the competition as a whole, each player has their own personal Unfinished Business. In a new series, womens.afl will speak to a variety of players about their aims for the upcoming season.
THERE'S no mistaking the steel in Lucy McEvoy's voice when she talks about the end of Carlton's 2020 season, cancelled after qualifying for a preliminary final.
"We had a great run coming into finals, and we weren't able to finish it off," McEvoy told womens.afl.
"It's been thrown around a bit at the club, unfinished business, we've got stuff to do next season.
"We're well aware of that and we're all buying into that unfinished business, and hopefully we've built a massive block over pre-season to hold us in good stead for next season."
From elation to disappointment
Carlton played its semi-final against Brisbane on Sunday, March 22, a day which will go down in footballing history.
With the game done and won by 3pm, the club knew there was a chance there would be no tomorrow for the 2020 season as COVID-19 restrictions crept in around the country.
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By 4.45pm, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan had called an extraordinary media conference, immediately cancelling the remainder of the AFLW season and putting the AFL men's competition on hold after one round.
"It was such a weird day. Everyone was so excited, we'd played really well, so we'd won," McEvoy recounted.
"We went into the rooms and then it was literally straight away, everyone was like, 'are we playing next week or are we not? 'Loynesy', 'Kez' (co-captains Katie Loynes and Kerryn Harrington), what are we doing?'
"Then they were like, 'Go home, have a shower and we'll let you know and update you'. Then the press conference came on and we got the news that the season was cancelled.
"We were all pretty disappointed, but we all knew it was a big possibility it wasn't going to finish. We were just glad we finished the season off the way we did."
Welcome to the big time
McEvoy was directly in the spotlight in the season-opener, picking up a NAB Rising Star nomination after a sterling round one effort.
Her brave contested mark against Richmond wrecking ball Lauren Tesoriero, 15 years her senior, got the Carlton faithful on their feet and excited about their boom draftee.
>> WATCH McEVOY'S STUNNING GRAB IN THE VIDEO ABOVE
"She nearly broke my leg, I had the biggest corkie, and I was like, 'what just happened?' To be honest, if I had have known it was Lauren Tesoriero coming the other way, I'd probably would have backed out, because she's a machine, she doesn't hold back," she said with a grin.
"I also knew if I didn't go for it, 'Harf' (coach Daniel Harford) would have dragged me straight back to the bench where I'd come from.
"So, I didn't really have a choice. Knowing he would have kicked my butt if I didn't, but also knowing he'd back me in to go up against players like that, I got a bit of confidence out of it and I think it transferred throughout the season."
Coping with great expectations
McEvoy came into the competition last year with big wraps.
The No.2 selection in the 2019 NAB AFLW Draft had an astonishing junior career with Geelong Falcons and Vic Country, named under-18 All Australian for four years straight playing across three different lines.
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But playing in the AFLW was a different kettle of fish.
"The physicality was a big one. We played a few practice games, I think two, before round one, and they were very physical as well," McEvoy said.
"Round one, adrenaline is pumping through your body, everyone's having a crack and got hit a few times, and felt 'woah'.
"But then you get through unscathed and you start thinking, how can I get on top of them next time, or get the first hit and not be put onto my backside."
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Lockdown saw McEvoy return to her family home in Geelong for nearly six months. While she said (with a grin) that she "got pretty sick" of her brothers, she got started solo training quick smart.
"There was no point wasting it. I got through the two weeks (rest) and thought I'd gradually build into it and went the whole way through," she said.
"It was good because it gives you a routine, you get up and it sets up your day.
"The big one for me was to improve my aerobic capacity and my running capacity, particularly if I want to play in the midfield full-time. My skills as well – in general, you can never get too good at them."
What's next for 'Big Boy'?
McEvoy is capable of playing in nearly every position on the ground, but is eyeing off more midfield time as her career progresses, to become part of a young and formidable engine room the Blues are creating.
"I want to try and get in there a bit more and learn off and play alongside Mads (Prespakis) as well. 'Greg' (Grace Egan) had a great season in the midfield, so I'd love to get in there with those girls, play a bit more midfield time," she said.
"I don't mind kicking a goal either, love a celebration, so I don't mind forward, but midfield is the main focus right now."
She's loved working alongside boom recruit Elise O'Dea, an experienced and shrewd midfielder herself.
"When [the trade] came through, I was like 'this is the best, this is going to be good'.
"She's slotted straight in. She's so out there, so enthusiastic, it's pretty much like she's been around the whole time I've been there. She's a great addition, a great player, I've learnt so much from her.
"She's already teaching us so much body work and craft, she's a great addition and I think she'll get us to where we need to be."