FOR Meg McDonald, an All-Australian selection and the inaugural Geelong best-and-fairest award have capped off an incredible return to the AFLW system.
McDonald was drafted by the Western Bulldogs and played four games in 2017 as a defender, yet at the end of the season, she found herself delisted and without an AFLW club to call home.
It was clear that the fire was still burning for the 27-year-old, so she put in the hard yards, and her hard work has paid dividends.
The Darebin Falcon is no stranger to success having played in both the 2016 and 2017 VFL premierships alongside fellow Cats Mel Hickey and Aasta O’Connor.
McDonald has never played football without Aasta O’Connor by her side, so it was only fitting the two Darebin and ex-Western Bulldogs teammates continued their AFLW careers down the highway at Geelong.
And she couldn’t speak highly enough of her teammates and the culture they have forged.
“It’s the best. They’re so welcoming, they’re so diverse, and they so want to get better at football together,” she said.
“That’s something we really want to hold on to, and it’s something I really value.
“I always believed in the talent and the ability of the list, but whether we could gel in such a short pre-season and really show what we had on the field was another matter.
“I think the group itself had the belief to make a preliminary final – obviously a few things went in our favour.
“Adelaide are obviously a far superior team, but I believe our list has that kind of talent in it.
“We’re a young (team), but I hope I can hold on long enough to see that come into fruition.
“It can only hold us in good stead going forward.
For a player who has experienced so much success at an elite level, footy wasn’t always on the mind of a young ‘Meg Mac’.
“I was around footy all the time growing up; my dad worked for the footy club, but I never thought about playing football, ever.
“It’s a credit to the people that did do it (play footy).
“I’m so happy to have jumped on board now. I hope the visibility of the sport down here and the celebration of the sport down here helps more and more people do that.
“I can’t speak highly enough of how the community down here has embraced it,” she said.
McDonald was always confident in her ability.
That self-assuredness ensured every time she took the field she more than held her own.
“I was happy with my form in the first round, and then I sort of got nervous and thought ‘I hope I can play again in the second round’.
“Then all of a sudden you’ve played seven rounds and you’re focusing on the team.
“I’ve had a couple of weeks to look back on it, and I’m certainly satisfied with some things.
“I’m very thankful to have had such a week but hopefully bigger and better (things to come).”