Not every player can get drafted to an AFL side at the age of 18, and with the relative youth of the AFLW competition, the amount of mature-age talent playing in local and state league football is exceptional.
At the age of 26, North Melbourne VFLW star Meagan Kiely is one of hundreds of players hoping to fulfil their dream of playing AFLW football next season, and after the year she’s had at reserve level, is every chance of achieving it.
Averaging 24.1 disposals and 5.3 marks a game across the season, Kiely finished as the VFLW leader in both categories. Along with her 5.4 tackles a game, she can do it all.
After setting a new VFLW record for kicks in a game with 31 in North’s Round 14 clash with Southern Saints, Kiely says she’s bullish about her chances of stepping up to AFLW.
"This season I have shown I can perform at VFL level and I'd love to take that a step further whether that is next season or in one or two seasons, I'd love to test myself at the next level,” Kiely told The Advocate.
“Other people have shown it can be done [being drafted from the VFLW], and what it really will come down to will be what teams need.
"I don't want to be disappointed if things don't go the way I would have liked them to go, so I will just keep doing what I do and working hard and eventually it will pay off, like it has already.”
While her numbers have been impressive across the board this season, they’re made all the more remarkable by the fact this was Kiely’s first season playing at VFLW level.
Having tasted success as part of Burnie’s 2016 TWL premiership side, her ability to transition up to the VFLW standard of football is an impressive success within itself.
She says her continued improvement through her football career is down to, quite simply, hard work.
“I have been working pretty hard on my game over the last 12 months and I think it has just highlighted the work the coaches have put in with me in particular over the last eight weeks of the season,” Kiely added.
“I wasn't expecting to have the season I had, and that just goes to show that if you put in the time and effort and really grind away you can improve with that little bit of extra help from the coaching staff.”