IT WOULD be easy to sit and dwell on the uncertainty of border closures, rising COVID cases and what it all might mean for the rest of our AFLW season, but extended time on the road and a little bit of cabin fever has brought out the quirky side of many of my Fremantle teammates.
Before we flew to Melbourne ahead of round two, we discussed the restrictions we had to put in place as a team to protect ourselves and give us the best chance of keeping fit and healthy. To say some of us (including myself) have taken it to the next level would be an understatement.
Aside from Victorian recruit Airlie Runnalls, we are very new to the reality of COVID in the community.
Hand sanitiser is like liquid gold here and is even used on the lid of our morning takeaway coffees … just in case. We’ve all found inventive ways to push buttons for lifts and crosswalk lights, and even if we’ve used our elbow or foot, you bet we sanitise our hands afterward.
Masks are essential, shopping centres are simply a no-go, and an extra wide berth is given to all members of the public.
This may seem extreme, however it has meant that the girls have had to come up with their own idea of fun, often entertaining the rest of us while they’re at it.
We each have a "buddy" who can visit our room for meals and just to hang out, and it has produced arguably some of the greatest Fremantle AFLW content to date.
If you’ve been following along on social media you may have seen Emma O’Driscoll and Laura Pugh’s inspiring gameday rendition of Freed From Desire. What you haven’t seen, though, was their even better rendition in the changerooms after our big win over Collingwood on Thursday night. It complemented our passionate chanting of the new and improved version of our club theme song.
With 'Drisco' and 'Pughy', the recorder makes a frequent appearance and, I’m told, it’s ready to go anytime, anywhere. The dynamic duo have also created their own Freo hub version of Adele’s Easy On Me, but they are yet to release that spectacular cover to the public.
Gemma Houghton has further discovered her angelic voice, which wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows her. Gemma isn’t shy about sending voice memos of herself singing to our WhatsApp group, or being filmed practising her vocals, supposedly "unaware", by Mikayla Morrison for all of Instagram to enjoy.
Honourable mentions to Jas Stewart for doing bunny hops on her Razor scooter, and to Drisco again as she continues to relish her newfound fame with a customary post-game backflip. It’s safe to say Drisco is absolutely loving the spotlight.
Along with the girls keeping things interesting, the kids on the trip make the whole experience all that more special. Assistant coach Lisa Webb’s children, Ollie, six, and Leo, two, as well as Kiara 'Turbo' Bowers’ son Nate, 19 months, have provided an unparalleled outlet to the stress and intensity of being in a hub. It’s incredibly heartwarming to see Turbo being so gentle and nurturing with Nate immediately after destroying the opposition with her ridiculous tackling.
We get to see cute gameday videos from the supporters’ box of little Leo saying "Go 'Juddy' (Kara Antonio), go 'Epps' (Ebony Antonio)," and watch Ollie play Nintendo Switch with boundless energy and passionately discussing it with anyone who will listen. It’s also really cool seeing the future mums of the group gravitate towards the kids, taking turns playing and laughing with them, and teaching them some questionable things. In fact, Airlie taught Ollie what the 'rude finger' was, and now everyone has to pretend they don’t know what it is in the hope he might forget!
Funny stuff aside, a lot of sacrifices have been made to be here, with many girls missing work and important family moments to give everything for this team and club. Although it can be stressful, unpredictable and overwhelming at times, I feel incredibly lucky to have this rare opportunity, not just to lead our incredibly resilient group but to create memories both on and off the field that we will cherish for many years to come.
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