'I was smacked to the floor': Roo'd awakening for North's Irish import

WHEN Erika O'Shea signed on with North Melbourne for season seven, she became the youngest Irishwoman to join the AFLW.  

At just 20 years of age, she made the leap, following the likes of Cora Staunton, Aisling McCarthy, and Aileen Gilroy to Australia to trade the round ball for an unpredictable oval one. 

Being the youngest to make the move does mean something to O'Shea, knowing that it was a risk and one she is hoping will pay off. 

Ellie Gavalas (left) and Erika O'Shea in action at a North Melbourne community camp in Tasmania in July, 2022. Picture: NMFC

"I'm hoping that the next few years let me build as a player and by the time I'm reaching 23, 24 like Orla O'Dwyer, I can achieve as much as she did," O'Shea told womens.afl

Being away from her family was tough, but the support network across the country – particularly that of the other 19 Irish AFLW players – has helped her settle in.

"The first few weeks, I found it very difficult being away from home," O'Shea told womens.afl.  

"But luckily the club has been amazing. I couldn't ask for more of a welcome." 

 

Namechecking Gilroy and Sarah Rowe, O'Shea has felt well guided. And she isn't the only Irish import at North Melbourne this season, either, with Vikki Wall landing in Australia over the weekend. 

"Vikki Wall is a huge talent back home and I can't wait to see her excel in this sport as well, because she's such an athlete. She's going to be very strong, very tough. And I can't wait to see her play… we're just lucky to have her," she said.

Her welcome, however, also came with learning the physical nature of Aussie Rules compared to Gaelic football.  

Erika O'Shea (left) and Vikki Wall in action during an All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship Semi-Final between Cork and Meath on August 15, 2021. Picture: Vikki Wall/Instagram

"The biggest learning curve for me would be the physicality of the tackling. Because I feel like, back home in the non-contact sport of Gaelic, obviously it wasn't as physically draining on your body," O'Shea said. 

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Teammate Grace Campbell taught her that lesson early on in her time at the Kangaroos. Laughing, O'Shea recalled her first real experience of being tackled. 

"When I got the ball back home, I used to just run straight. So, I got the ball, and I started running and Grace just took me out of it. I was smacked to the floor. Everyone was like, 'Oh, shoot, are you okay?' But yeah, it took a lot on my body," she said.

"I'm lucky to have people like Grace who push me harder and get me ready for matches." 

A focus on building up her strength, noting that as something she currently lacks, has been the theme of her first AFLW preseason, but in the club's practice match against Collingwood O'Shea showed just how quickly she has picked up the game. 

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And it's with those skills and dash coming out of defence that O'Shea is hoping to give back to the team that brought her out here. 

"I hope to succeed and just be an asset to the team if possible, and to give as much as I can to the club," she said.