New Cat, old tricks: Why Chantel Emonson hasn't changed a thing

CHANTEL Emonson is one of nine new Cats in 2022, making the move from Melbourne during the off-season.  

Her arrival at Geelong means Emonson is now a senior player, the fifth most experienced player at the club, and is helping to lead a team with 13 players aged 21 or under. But the defender hasn't let that change the way she goes about her footy. 

"We have quite a young group at Geelong and I guess I'm probably now considered one of the older ones there," Emonson said.

"But I think just a change of environment, I'm just really enjoying my footy, so I haven't really been thinking about it too much, but more so just to enjoy myself really.

"You really don't know how long you'll be in the system, but hopefully, the older girls, we are paving a pathway for these young girls in the future to be able to capitalise on these opportunities." 

(L-R): Geelong's Chantel Emonson, Rebecca Webster and Zali Friswell look dejected after a loss during round three, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Working in the disability sector during the day, which Emonson describes as "challenging, but rewarding", the reality of trying to limit games lost through the competition's health and safety protocols is tricky. 

"I think there's just such a greater focus now on what you're doing outside of footy in regards to protecting yourself, and especially your teammates as well," Emonson explained.

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"We try our best not to miss a game through the health and safety protocols, but you can't control what other people are doing when you're out in the community. So it's just trying to manage what you're doing on and off the field as best you can." 

Collingwood's Eliza James evades Geelong's Chantel Emonson during round three, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Emonson is managing her on field performance particularly well this year. As her desperation on the goal line shone against Collingwood in round three, it's her ball use that flies under the radar. 

As one of the best kicks in the competition, Emonson is averaging 84.6 per cent disposal efficiency, an important addition to a Geelong side that often found itself under pressure in defence and forced into turning the ball over last year. The former Demon has slotted in seamlessly alongside the nous of Maddy McMahon and captain Meg McDonald. 

Emonson cites McMahon's work in defence ("she's a jet") as representing the consistency and pressure the side focused on during the preseason. 

"I think our spectators have probably been able to see from the first three games that a big focus for us as a team is pressure on the footy and I think we've been able to consistently bring that, whether that's through smothers or spoils, acts like that," Emonson said.

Collingwood's Sarah Rowe tackles Geelong's Maddy McMahon during round two, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

That consistent pressure has reflected on the stat sheet, with the Cats averaging 61 tackles a game across the first three rounds, six more than the competition average this year. 

But amongst it all, Emonson is happy to have "front row seats" to efforts like Sophie Van De Heuvel's run and carry, and other moments in games that lift the team. 

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"Running off the halfback line, taking a couple of bounces and then hitting a forward in the forward 50 that finishes the hard work, it's a nice reward," she said.

"Let's do that again."

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