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VFLW: TAC Cup duo thrive as Tigers

VFLW Tigers Sophie Damon and Grace Egan are two busy teenagers.  

Not only do the pair juggle football with their Year 12 studies, but they complete a five-hour round trip from Shepparton to Melbourne three times a week for training and matches.

Both Murray Bushrangers players in the TAC Cup, the two have been exciting inclusions into Richmond’s inaugural side.

Damon is a courageous utility who excels at the stoppages. And Egan, a winger with natural speed and a knack for reading the play.

Damon, 17, and Egan, 18, were avid netballers in their early years, making the transition to football in high school. They attended Richmond’s Come and Try Day after deciding to take their games to the next level.

The young talents impressed recruiters and were soon named as Tigers once their TAC Cup commitments had concluded.

Luckily enough, being both based in the Shepparton region means they can travel to Tigerland together.

Egan said having Damon by her side as a fellow youngster and travel buddy has been comforting. 

“We help each other, we keep up to date with each other, and we support each other,” Egan said.

And the girls are adamant the opportunity is worth the trek.

Damon said she has thrived in Richmond’s elite environment and has treasured the camaraderie within the side.

“It’s really good to try and grow into my footy and learn new skills. The girls know how to have a bit of fun, but when we need to get stuff done we get it done, and we’re always there for each other,” she said.

“That first goal I kicked when everyone ran over to me, it was an unbelievable feeling.” 

And while balancing football with the demands of Year 12 can prove tricky, Damon has found the key to making it work.

“I just make sure I’m always communicating with my teachers so I can juggle it all. Often I do homework in the car on the way down to Melbourne,” Damon said.

Richmond AFL Women’s Football Operations Manager Kate Sheahan said it’s exciting to have the two young prospects on board.

“Grace is a really smart operator. She uses the ball well and is incredibly composed,” Sheahan said.

“And Sophie’s aerial ability, particularly overhead, is a real standout. She has the versatility of being able to carry her own all over the ground, even in the ruck.”

Sheahan said they have integrated into the Richmond culture well and have played beyond their years.

“It’s a pretty daunting environment as a 17 or 18-year-old having to rub shoulders with AFLW players. But each game they play and each week they come down, they’re just growing and growing,” Sheahan said.

“They’re both just country girls who are grateful for the opportunity and excited to be at the club.”

Damon and Egan have some impressive Richmond counterparts to learn from. Sheahan said their confidence has flourished thanks to the mentorship that has developed between themselves and Richmond’s AFLW players.

“Grace, as a midfielder, has been able to learn off the likes of Lauren Tesoriero, Phoebe Monahan, Jess Kennedy and Millie Barden. As a young player, when you’re surrounded in the midfield with those types of girls, you walk a bit taller because you know they have your back,” Sheahan said.

Egan agrees, crediting the invaluable support from the experienced Tigers.

“The AFLW girls are willing to help you get better, and it’s so great to have those role models around you,” she said.

“It’s the best opportunity I’ve had in footy. I’ve loved every minute at the Richmond club.”

Both Damon and Egan have AFLW selection set firmly in their sights. And if their dedication and hunger alone is anything to go by, they certainly have what it takes.

The VFLW Tigers will be looking to get back onto the winners’ list this Saturday, when they take on Carlton in Round 12. The match will be held at Ikon Park, kicking off at 11:30am.

 

CARLTON v RICHMOND
Round 12 – 28/07/2018
11:30AM
Ikon Park

Richmond

B: 69. E. Burry, 63. J. Graham, 65. E. King
HB: 54. L. Bailey, 73. L. Davie, 83. J. Gardner
C: 75. B.  Lynch, 89. G.  Deller, 88. P.  Monahan
HF: 76. E. Ross, 93. C. Bernardi, 55. C. Wakefield
F: 82. G. Bibby, 90. S. Damon, 72. J. Radnell
R: 68. A. Edmonds, 59. A. Woodward, 52. J. Kennedy
Int: 60. K. Dempsey, 53. K. Dixon, 71. R. Edmeades, 64. E. Gunn 

Emg: 85. N. Clarke, 62. T. Muller, 79. L. Tesoriero, 78. V. Tonin

23P: 67. N. Bamblett 

In: E. King, L. Tesoriero, V. Tonin , A. Edmonds, C. Bernardi, N. Clarke

Out: J. Louttit, L. Bieniara