A star point guard in the WNBL since 2012, Tessa Lavey played her first AFLW game for Richmond on Sunday. The 27-year-old Australian Opal penned a piece for aflplayers.com.au on transitioning to footy, her experience debuting, and continuing to eye off the Tokyo Olympics.
I didn’t have many expectations going into my AFLW debut.
Given it was my first game, the coaching staff and players were the same.
They just told me to back in my instincts and have some fun, and that’s exactly what I did.
I was pretty happy just to be running around, it was a very surreal experience.
Upon reflection, it’s kind of crazy to think I’ve played my first AFLW game.
I never thought about playing football professionally until the AFLW competition came about.
I watched it and kept a close eye on it.
I remember joking to my friends that I’d only ever play if my beloved Tigers had a team.
When they entered the competition last year, I thought ‘Alright, turns out the joke has become serious’.
After I expressed my interest with those at the Tigers, a few friends of mine reached out to their staff and one of those was Erin Phillips (Adelaide star) who urged them to give me a go.
I came down to the club one day last year and had a kick with Nathan Chapman, who’s a specialist kicking coach at the Tiges.
The club got some different conditioning into me, and I worked hard on different skills so that made the transition as seamless as possible.
When the latest WNBL season finished, I got back to Bendigo, after being in a hub in Queensland, and two days later, I was down at the Tigers.
They were really good considering the basketball commitments I’d come off, and offered that I come down, run around, and get around the girls and the club.
I’ve watched a whole heap of football, but understanding the positioning and playing your role, that’s been the biggest learning curve for me.
I hadn’t played footy in a long time, so the best way I’ve learnt is actually going out there and playing.
To win a spot in the team, I just had to play.
Being able to play a whole practice match (in an intraclub game with Port Melbourne) was huge for me.
The club has been great, they were always going to put me in a position where I’d be successful.
They didn’t put me in too early, but they also didn’t hold me back. They were keen to get me out there and allow me to have a crack.
I absolutely loved debuting, and the club made it really special by having family and friends on Zoom when I was presented with my jumper.
They were all coming down, the whole family, and I was looking forward to having them there, but then COVID (Victoria entered a five-day lockdown) struck again.
That’s OK, we’ve got to adjust in these situations.
It doesn’t make it any less special, it’ll be nice to have them watch me when they can.
The Richmond girls are such a great bunch.
Whenever I have questions, there’s always two or three girls trying to help me, they couldn’t have made me feel more welcome.
The standard of the league is incredible, and it’s only been five seasons.
We didn’t have these opportunities as kids, and now women in sport, it’s on another level.
Our number one pick from last year’s draft, Ellie McKenzie, she’s just a freak.
She’s had those pathways for her, so it’s a bit scary to think those kids are going to be coming through all the time now.
It’s very exciting for women in sport and females growing up.
I’m still working really hard on basketball, and training two or three times a week in that space, too.
We’ve got Opals commitments coming up and I’m really pumped to be part of that. I really hope the (postponed) Tokyo Olympics goes ahead, and fingers crossed I’ll get that opportunity in 2021.
It makes my schedule really busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
A dual sport athlete is definitely a thing now, and clubs are very supportive of it, which is exciting.
My main goal for the remainder of the AFLW season is to contribute where I can, and do whatever the team needs.
I want to improve every week as a player, and as a person as well.
When we’re allowed to have supporters back at games, there’ll be plenty of photos taken when I can get my Opals teammate, Sara Blicavs (sister of Geelong’s Mark), in a Richmond jumper.
She’s going to have my number on the back of it, and she’ll be wearing it to the game!