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Fremantle’s Undefeated Season with Hayley Miller

Fremantle's undefeated season. Image: Fremantle Dockers
Image: Fremantle Dockers

Every Monday Gemma Bastiani’s Play On Radio releases a new episode of I See It But I Don’t Believe It, a podcast all about footy stories. We’ve shared various episodes in the past, including this one featuring Siren co-founder Kirby Fenwick discussing The Lockout: the inaugural AFLW game. Today we’re sharing a conversation with Hayley Miller detailing Fremantle’s undefeated season, game by game. 

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Gemma

Hello and welcome to another episode of I See It But I Don’t Believe It. I’m joined by someone very special today to talk about a topic that I’m really excited to talk about. I’m Gemma, as usual, and today I’m joined by Freo star—I would call you a star—Hayley Miller. Hello!

Hayley

Hello, thank you for having me.

Thank you for joining all the way from WA, so there’s a little bit of a time difference. I made you get up early.

Not too early. It’s all right.

Today we’re going to be talking about your undefeated but also kind of unresolved season of 2020.

Yes, yes. It was a very, very unusual one. Well, it went really well until it wasn’t. It’s a funny one to talk about.

Yeah, and I think I was talking to someone the other day and this—I’m not trying to like dig the knife in—but this is the first time in footy history that a team’s gone undefeated and also not won the Premiership.

Yeah, well, you’re pretty much not able to do that. Well, if going to get something for the season we’ll have that. Probably never going to happen again.

Yeah, hopefully it never happens. I mean, it was still impressive, though. And you had so much change in the offseason as well, coming into 2020. I did want to ask—and I know, it’s been something that you’ve probably all talked about endlessly—but the losses to expansion and injury before the season even began. How do you think internally you address that to be able to attack it differently than what maybe other teams were able to do?

I think our support staff handled it really well. We knew what was going to happen. There was a time that was really difficult to navigate what was going to happen. I wasn’t definitely Freo myself either. So talking from experience of going through that process, and I guess deciding what your future holds. Obviously, it came for me that I was staying at Freo. I totally understand, obviously for other girls that shifted over to the Eagles. But that’s the nature of expansion and all that sort of stuff. It’s not the first time that happened, we knew it was going to happen. 

But I think the powerful thing for us was Trent [Cooper] went through after it all happened and people had moved and we got together and he went through each individual player and pretty much gave us an insight to the process that they went through—confidentiality, anything that they didn’t want to share or anything like that. Just to give each person sort of the reason why they left and they all had their their reasons—bar maybe or a couple—so that really helped I think put it straight in people’s minds that, you know, they’re not leaving because they didn’t like us, not leaving because I didn’t like the club and things like that. 

So a lot of them left because there were opportunities elsewhere and you know, that helps with that morale. It doesn’t matter that this person, this person, this person left, this is what we have still, and we can do something really special with what we’ve got.

I wasn’t definitely Freo myself either.

Something else that Freo can hang their hat on is that you’re the only club to still have both of your marquee players at the club.

Yeah, yeah and I guess it’s kind of nice because one of our original marquees Kiara Bowers obviously didn’t play for the first two seasons. So that was kind of like we didn’t have one for a while and then she exploded. We knew she would because if you knew her before AFLW started out you knew she’s an absolute star and every footy game that she’s ever played she’s absolutely dominated so we knew that was going to happen, but it was just getting her body right and actually having her play was really, really important.

Oh man, she terrifies me in the best possible way.

Yeah, I’m glad she’s on my team.

Did your eyes light up a little bit as a midfielder seeing a few of those kind of first tier mids leave as a real opportunity for yourself to step into that and really help the team in a way you maybe weren’t able to do prior? 

Yeah, absolutely. I was probably one of the younger ones in that midfield the last couple of seasons and being the least experienced probably of most of them, with obviously Dana Hooker leaving, that was a massive hole that opens up in the midfield and I think for me it has really helped my football because I’ve had to go from this level and people telling me what to do to to jump up here and people are looking at me because we do have couple of young girls that have come into the midfield and are regulars in there now with me and Turbo [Kiara Bowers]. 

So yeah, it was a very different feel to the midfield, but it was also a massive learning opportunity for all of us in how we make that work. And I think hopefully, if we can keep that together, we’re only gonna get better as a midfield group and as individuals as well.

The thing that Freo did really well this year was the balance between inside and outside mids as well. Was that something that was a big focus or do you think just with personnel change it kind of fell into place?

I think what’s also super exciting for us is that—unfortunately for her—but Steph Cain went down with the ACL within the first couple of minutes of the first game and she’s probably our one of our best, if not our best wings—and one of the best in the competition I think actually playing that position. So there were a couple of things that had to change because she was taken out of that position. 

You wouldn’t probably see Juddy [Kara Antonio] or Eps [Ebony Antonio] as being wingers, if you looked at them on paper or the profile that they have. Juddy was always playing on the wing, but Eps was thrown in there after a couple of games to try and switch off and bring her into games a little bit more. She obviously just absolutely flourished in that position and obviously that’s amazing for us because she did some really, really good things throughout the back half of the season. I think yeah, that balance between the inside mid group that pretty much stayed fairly similar each game throughout the whole season. 

And then we had that outside mid group that worked really well and when you’re in as an inside mid sometimes [you] can get a little bit [of] tunnel vision that’s hard to see what’s unfolding the rest of the game because you’re around the ball all the time and you’re focused on getting it and dishing it out to everyone else but they talk to us and let us know what’s going on, what’s working, what’s not with structure and things like that. Sometimes you can’t really see when you’re in there. So having Juddy out on the wing and yeah, her communication to us has been really, really awesome. I think it really did work quite well. 

Related—Feature interview: Mim Strom & Trent Cooper

And do you think—sorry, this is just turning into an interview because I’m so fascinated—but I think that Katie-Jayne Grieve’s kind of evolution into that on the ball role as well helped with that too, because it did allow you to have some senior players maybe sit outside the contest?

Yeah, I totally forget that Katie was originally sort of a winger for us. I just see her as an inside mid now because she was there the whole preseason and through the season. She really obviously stepped up her game this year and really got involved in the contest. So yeah, I think it was a couple of little positional changes and her flipping in really worked for her and for the team. And then Juddy flipping out really works for her. As a team you couldn’t be happier with how it panned out in that respect and that will go to the coaches for identifying that and training it really well.

Yeah, and something that could look a little bit unheralded is that Grieve was second in the comp for tackles. You don’t realise how big of a deal that is because everyone’s focused on Kiara Bowers getting the 99. It’s all the little things that Freo were doing right. So instead of me just continuing to ask you questions, let’s actually go through game-by-game.

Sure. 

We’ll kick it off with round one against Geelong. This one is at Fremantle Oval. You guys won it by 16 points. The big thing obviously minutes in was Steph Cain getting injured and then having to adapt on the fly. On the field were you aware that there was someone missing? 

Yes and no. It doesn’t really dawn on you until after the game that oh, we actually were playing most of the game with a man down on the bench. So rotations-wise that kind of throws everything out and being a midfielder as well, or that wing rotation, you only have three main wings depending on how your team is structured but, you know, you can’t have two people running on the wing for an entire game. So that meant that there had to be some big, big changes and flipped around so I think we were aware of it. Probably not the extent of it, but that shows up for the rest of the game. 

You’re trying not to think about what it could or couldn’t be. I think everyone dealt with it fairly well and she herself—knowing her she can, when things aren’t going right, go into her shell a little bit—she went down and they obviously assessed it and said look, you know you’re not playing anymore this game and we’ll have scans and things like that. But she got herself together and came back out on the bench and supported the team. I think from her personally, that was really positive for the rest of the team as well to see that she’s okay so we’re okay, let’s play this game and worry about what may or may not be after. So I think that was really powerful to have her on the bench still offering the leadership that she brings.

Yeah, and talking about leadership. You kind of had the opposite of that, you had pretty much no rucks remaining other than your draft pick Mim Strom, who was incredible all season. She had to come out and ruck this whole game—in conjunction with Roxy Roux who was also debuting. Her input in the middle of the field and then going at ground level was something you had kind of up your sleeve that you knew that maybe not too many people knew about. She can become a midfielder at the same time.

Yeah, well we obviously know what she’s capable of and I think it was more showing her that she can do it and it’s a lot of positive reinforcement for her that she’s doing an amazing job and keep doing what you’re doing because I would hate to be a ruck. You just get smashed 24/7, knees in your chest, in your ribs all the time. So for a young kid like her—just really, really raw as well—to just keep pushing it and she did the entire season. 

Unfortunately Aine [Tighe] our Irish recruit who was looking absolutely amazing all the way through the preseason, I was so excited to have her and Mim both working together. We haven’t had a real ruck presence for the first three years, so it was so exciting to have the two of them looking really good working really well together. Aine unfortunately went down with an ACL as well in the preseason game so yeah, all fell on Mim and I think she was originally quite scared about that which you would being a young kid, being like ‘oh god now I’ve got to do it all’ but she took that and just rolled with it and did such a great job.

I’m referencing back the fact that the other day I did actually do a rewatch with Siren of round one 2019 where you actually did assist in the ruck for a lot of the game.

Yes, I’ve never got a call out again since then. Clearly I didn’t do a good job [laughs].

I mean, it was against Lauren Pearce which isn’t an easy task.

I was coming off an injury then which was even more ridiculous. I played that game in the ruck and on the wing, which are two positions that I’d never played before. A little bit of wing, but not a lot. So that was a very interesting game, definitely a big learning curve, and I’m glad I never had to do it again.

I mean, it was one of the best games of last year, I’ve got to say.

It was very good.

The other thing that happened really, Sabreena Duffy kicked four goals in this game, which is unbelievable.

She can make the ball talk. She just sort of gets herself in the right spot and she did. She just sort of sharks around the contest and gets those ones out of the back, puts herself in a really dangerous position. And obviously, that results in a lot of goals.

Yeah, and she’s just so smart. 

Yeah, she is. She’s got a very footy brain.

I do enjoy the commentators always pointing out that if she does get it in the forward 50 very rarely does she look to pass it off. She’s always looking at the goals.

But if you can kick them then that’s okay. As long as she puts them through the big sticks then I don’t mind.

She’s doing her job, absolutely. So you knock off Geelong by 16 points, and then the next week is probably I would imagine one of the biggest weeks for WA, being the first ever AFLW Derby. I keep going to say Showdown, but that’s South Australia. This one is at Optus Stadium in front of 35,185 people. The first quarter was very, I want to say aggressive in a sportsmanlike way but then it really did break open. Did you feel like going out there in the first quarter it was really important to be a physical presence before really doing that outside flowing game?

Yeah, absolutely. I think it was because there’s so much hype around it and everyone was so excited and just wanted to go out there and absolutely give it the best crack. There was always going to be a lot of banter and it was always going to be hard hitting. That first quarter was nothing but hard hits and all that sort of thing. It probably didn’t break open much really in that first quarter. But once we sort of settled into it, and you get those nerves and things out the way, we started to play out our brand of footy and it was just a whole lot of fun.

Kiara Bowers laid 18 tackles in this game which was her season high in a record breaking year so that probably was leading the team wasn’t it?

Eighteen plus the one that she laid on the pitch invader so if we can add that one, she would have got to 100. It’s a great running joke that we’ve got at the club. But yeah, obviously her physical presence. I think she had the job on Dana Hooker so I think that was in her mind. She just absolutely didn’t want to give her an inch and that’s what she did. She went out and did her job as well as being a star in her own right. She knows how to play the game and that’s exactly what she did. 

And she actually hurt her shoulder quite badly in the second quarter I think, so she had an injury that was probably caused by tackling too much. And then continued to tackle the rest of the game. I was actually injured myself as well so I didn’t get to play the second half, so I was sitting on the bench and hearing it all and she’d come up and she was in so much pain but she was like, now I need to get back out there. And everyone’s just saying ‘just stop tackling, like stop tackling so much’ or ‘can we put her in the forward line so she stopped tackling?’ It doesn’t matter where you put her she’s going to tackle regardless. She just sort of grit her teeth.

I was completely unaware of that. The other thing was Katie-Jayne Grieve really stepped up in this game as well. This was kind of a first game where it was like, okay this is someone to watch this year for sure.

Yeah, she kicked a couple of goals and I think—bar Turbo—the second most tackles for that day. I think it was nine or something like that. So it was a pretty impressive day out for her as well and probably one of the best games I’ve seen her play. She played with that tenacity and just that real hunger for the ball, that was awesome to see from her as well.

I think the derby at Optus was just so monumental for WA sport.

Incredible and you win by casual 45 points, no worries. And then we move on to round three which was kind of seen as your first really big challenge of the season because Collingwood were coming off a big win against Carlton. This one’s at Fremantle Oval, obviously against the Pies, but you got over the line by three points. It was a big game for you. This was probably your first really big game of the season with a bunch of clearances and a bunch of touches. You did a great job. 

Thank you! Well, yeah, it was a tough game. That one it kind of felt like we went over the top. We were not lucky, but I think every time that we had an opportunity on goal, we managed to kick one. Whereas they had the ball 90% of the time. If you look at the stats, it was ridiculous. The percentage of disposals and the time that they actually had the ball, I think they had a lot more than what we did. But we managed to convert when we had the opportunity. And yeah, that ended up being a win for us.

Yeah, and it was probably a really big challenge for your midfield group I’d imagine because of that Collingwood group. Jaimee Lambert had really established herself, Brianna Davey’s unbelievable. They had all those players you had to come up against and defend, as well as be able to get the ball back, which I think would have been a big challenge?

Yeah, they were we know. A lot of these especially Victorian midfields are really established and really, really strong and, yeah they’ve had the inclusion of Brianna Davey, who we know is an incredible player and ball finder. And we know that Jaimee Lambert was getting 30 touches every game and a couple of goals to her name as well. So we knew it was going to be a big task. 

We don’t ever see ourselves as second, but a lot of people out there—if you put the two midfields next to each other—they’d be saying that Collingwood’s is a lot stronger. It was just trying to play to our strengths and nullify their impact through the midfield, and then down the ground as well. It was definitely a big challenge and learning curve for us.

You mentioned the kind of balance of disposal and how much they had the ball. I think it was something like you had six inside 50s to their 20-something. That alone is pretty incredible that your defence was able to withstand that. They were really strong in that game.

Yeah, I think our poor defenders probably don’t get enough credit for what they do for our team and as usual, defenders don’t. We don’t have like one star defender that does all the work. They all chip in a little bit each which means there’s not one person that’s getting a lot of praise for it, but as a collective they’re really strong. 

I think the way that we play, this quick pace, we get bounced a little bit so our score against is a bit higher than some other teams, so you look at it as the defence isn’t as strong. But I think it’s more the way that we play, that slingshot footy and unfortunately that can obviously work the opposite way as well. We get bounced and teams kick goals on us, but as long as we’re doing it better the other way, which obviously we did this season and that’s the way we want to play and it’s pretty blatantly obvious when you watch us play that we want to move the ball pretty fast. Obviously it works really well with the girls that we’ve got down forward. Their ability to just turn and go, it works really well for us. 

Speaking of bounce, Evie Gooch I think really established herself as that kind of rebounding defender this year. Her ability to jump out of the backline and really get you moving was really evident this year for sure.

Yeah, she’s super strong and she reads the ball really well as well. So when she gets a hands on it, and she’s quite a good decision maker, she’ll hit up a target or run it out a little bit and get it long out of trouble. She’s definitely grown in her confidence of what she can do as well. Having Alex Williams out of the team with an ACL from last year, she probably was a bit of the general back there last year. So, she probably was the one that stood up a little bit this year to lead that backline. Yeah, really, really good effort by her to take on that role.

They’re probably just watching and being like, oh god, please, please.

So you’ve won three in a row now and then we go to RSEA Park against St Kilda. A place that is not a happy hunting ground for me. You won by one point, this was controversial, all that sort of stuff. But the biggest thing that I noticed in this game—that was frustrating me to watch—is the inaccuracy.

Yeah, I can’t even put it down to what the problem was. There was a bit of wind about but it wasn’t—it’s not like we’re not used to the wind because I can tell you what, Fremantle Oval, the wind is usually 90% of the time absolutely blowing a gale so I have no idea. I don’t know what it was. But you’re right, in the first quarter we probably could have been up two or three goals and that probably would have put the game to bed a little bit. But we sort of kept them in it—not discounting them at all, they were really good and they sort of came together and they played a good brand of footy, and you have to give them credit for that. But yeah, I think it probably would have helped if we’d put a couple of the goals through early on, may have helped our situation come the end part of the game. But anyway, you do learn from that.

Am I right in saying the scoreboard was wrong at the ground. So what was the feeling like on the ground when the siren went?

I realised probably 30 seconds before the siren actually went, that we were ahead. I think they missed one of the points, there were so many of them. When Gemma [Houghton] hit the post running into an open goal, I thought then it was a draw. Yeah, I think I thought that was a draw. But it was actually, we were a point up, so the scoreboard had that it was a draw at that point. And obviously, if you haven’t played footy or watched any footy, it’s the situation or how you deal with a situation when it’s a draw versus you’re a point down versus you’re a point up. The way that you play is very, very different. So it being a draw I was like, well I don’t want to draw, I want to win. So we were just trying to shovel the ball out of the midfield as quick as we could and then I looked up at the scoreboard again like 10 seconds later and was like oh, hang on. We’re a point up and I was like, oh my god pull it in hold it. But yeah, it was very unusual. Right at the end some of the St Kilda girls still thought it was a draw and it was a bit of a shambles, but I’m glad it was in our favour.

I can only imagine how your coaches were feeling watching you getting the ball out quickly.

They knew the actual score and also knew that the scoreboard was wrong, but by the time your runner comes out, you’re not quick enough. It takes a couple of minutes to get that sort of messaging out anyway. So yeah, they’re probably just watching and being like, oh god, please, please.

Yeah, that was stressful to watch. Then we move on to round five, so you get over the line with that one. Stress aside. You get to go back home to Fremantle Oval to face Brisbane who were on a pretty good run at that stage. You’re the both the only undefeated teams remaining right?

Well yeah, they drew to Gold Coast, so still technically undefeated.

But you won by three goals. This was where Sabreena Duffy decided to jump back up, kick four goals—three in the first half. I read somewhere that her first six touches were all scoring shots.

Very efficient, very efficient with the ball.

She kicked 4.4 though. Were you just secretly hoping she’d break the goalkeeping record?

Yeah, I think minus the finals she was one behind on leading goalscorer for the year. So you never know if we’d had those last two games, she might have popped up. It was funny. She did have a couple of really, really good games and then a couple of quiet games which she didn’t really have much impact at all. I think for her, development-wise we’ll just be looking to have those amazing games more often. But yeah, when she does turn it on, she turns it on very, very well.

We know what we’re capable of and that wasn’t it.

Do you think that in itself is such a nice problem to have, because you do have so many other forwards that can pop up and do similar things on the others’ off weeks?

Yeah, absolutely. When Sabreena Duffy is not having the best day, you’ve got Roxy stepping up or you’ve got Gemma—well Gemma’s pretty standard, she goes and gets the ball, she’s an excitement machine. We’ve got to work on getting her to kick the ball through the big sticks. I think when one’s not having the best game the others really step up. We’re really lucky in that respect, that we have that versatility in the forward line and yeah, the ability for someone to have a bad day and it not affect the whole team.

Ebony Antonio did some nice things up forward too. Some very natural forward things up forward.

Absolutely, she wasn’t playing forward, but she got forward plenty of times.

And you were able to stave off a really big Brisbane push in the third quarter to just maintain the lead that you gathered in the first quarter, and just put them away which was your show of perseverance, and the resilience to deal with any situation. The first five games have shown that no matter which situation you’re in, you’ve worked out a way to win out of it.

We weren’t really that happy with how the Collingwood game panned out or the St Kilda game panned out, so although we won them it kind of felt like we lost at the end because we were pretty disappointed. Not so much the Collingwood one, we know they’re a really good side, but I think the St Kilda one we just didn’t play how we wanted to so luckily we won but on that plane ride home I was actually sitting next to Turbo on one side and Katie on the other side, and I just stopped and I said, we need to talk about this because what’s happening in our midfield right now we need sorted out because I’m not happy with how it’s going. I was like, there’s something that’s missing and we pretty much had a crisis meeting that week to try and figure out what was going on. 

That’s a really good spot to be in when you’re actually winning all of your games, when you’re still having crisis meetings about what’s not going right. And we’re suddenly labeled as a weak midfield, people just said that we were being beaten in the midfield all the time, and it was our forwards that were winning games for us and everything like that. So I think you take that a little bit personally if you’re in the midfield. So I think myself and Turbo were kind of like, well I’m sick of having that sort of label and how do we turn that around? Not that it’s all about what people label you, we know what we’re capable of and that wasn’t it. 

We prepared a little bit differently that week to take on Brisbane and I think it worked really well for us. And we rolled that out the rest of the year in preparing for players and what we might come up against and how we’re going to combat that. But yeah, I think it was a really good team effort that day to just turn around what were probably two games that we weren’t really confident in our execution of the game. But then we came into Brisbane and the feeling after the Brisbane game was very different. We just felt good about what we’d been able to achieve. I think you’re right in saying we were able to win no matter what the circumstances were. We’re really proud of that ability. And we were hoping that that was going to continue on and we had a lot of belief that would continue on for the rest of the season. If it did go on ahead.

Oh, if I’m feeling this way I can only imagine how you guys, ah. Anyway, I mean the situation is unprecedented.

It’s really hard to talk about because you don’t want to be disrespectful in the fact that, yes 100% there are a lot bigger things going on in the world and you know people are dying and the economy’s in a bad way and everything like that. People are losing jobs and whatnot but yeah, it’s a big deal and it’s a lot. You put a lot of hard work and effort into that and for it to just sort of stop like that. I think it’s going to take a little bit of time to get over probably next year and if we do really well, if we don’t do so well next year. There’s no other option we have to do well!

Awh man, at least you can say you had an undefeated season. Well let’s continue on! We’re up to round six which would end up being the final home and away round. You took on the Dogs at Whitten Oval, you won it by 15 points, but it didn’t feel so secure for most of the game did it?

No! They probably weren’t having the season that they would have wanted. They’re a really young young side though and they just came out and played like they just desperately wanted to win. They played a really exciting brand of footy and they pretty much tried to beat us at our own game a little bit. I think that’s how I describe it, they did that fast flowing football and caught us on the fly a little bit. 

It took a bit of time to break that, not until the last quarter and it was an exciting game. I didn’t feel like we didn’t have control over it a lot. Even when we were three goals down, it was kind of like, oh hang on. We really need to do something about this now because if we don’t start this charge now we’re going to leave it too late and we won’t be able to get back, if that makes sense? So it was kind of like, oh wow okay, we are now three goals down, we’re going to have to really, really put our foot down. We can’t just rely on our last quarter because we might not have enough time. So yeah, it was that third quarter when we found ourselves quite a long way down and what needs to happen here and rallied around and got a couple of goals to get us within a goal I think, and then we had a really strong finish to the game.

Ashley Sharp in this game was unbelievable. Her work in the forward half did really effectively change the game in terms of scoreboard momentum for you.

Yeah definitely. She took a really good mark in the goal square. When she’s that close, she’s a great set shot on goal within that 30 metre radius so you know that’s going to go in. And to take a really strong mark, she’s not known for taking really strong marks usually she likes to get them on the run and sort of run down and get that fly on the back, she’s quite quick but it was really impressive to see her take that on as well and do things a little bit differently. Definitely scoreboard pressure in a game like that is massive, because we needed the score on the board no matter what you’re doing the rest of the game. If you don’t get the score on the board you find yourself three goals down.

That mark, Trent Cooper said that he thought that was the real momentum swing on the field. Did that lift a lot of you to push that little bit harder?

I think really whenever you get a goal you’re kind of like, alright let’s try and feed off this momentum. So I don’t know if it was one specific point, but every time you kick a goal or someone does something really good, you want to feed off that and just keep pushing. So yes, you’re senior players on the ground, you’re trying to really build off that momentum that you create yourself. Because by this time, we had no crowds at the game. So there’s no momentum built by the crowd—not that we would have had much there—but yeah, you don’t have anyone else driving you on so you have to do it yourself. We probably did that quite well, I think.

And there was a moment that you probably don’t want to talk about: the double 50 metre penalty.

It’s a funny one. Katie just had an absolute brain fade. And, you know, that happens to the best of us sometimes and I think everyone on the field is like, ‘what are you doing?’ Yeah, obviously gave them a goal. But I think what was really pleasing was that she came off the ground and was absolutely distraught with with herself having done that, and had to get on the phone to Trent and Trent was trying to calm her down more so than anything, she already knew, he didn’t need to tell her that she’d done the wrong thing. She knew what she’d done and it was more trying to calm her down and get refocused on the game and to make an impact. Not to fix what she’d done, but you know, you want to make an impact and not let that be the defining moment of your game. So I think for her to go out after that had happened and still manage to make an impact, it was really positive for her and her development.

It was kind of funny to watch it. What’s happening? Like, why? Why are you doing that? And then yeah, she did definitely lift after that as well. That was very noticeable, at least from the TV screen at home. So you won it by 15 points. That again was another example of a different way to come out and win despite maybe being jumped or something like that. And then there was a week of uncertainty, you didn’t know what was going to happen. I mean, you probably felt more comfortable in the situation being top of the conference ladder than maybe some other teams like Melbourne, let’s say, who have a really good way of missing finals. It’s devastating. But you got to play against the Suns at Fremantle Oval in a semi final. The big thing in this one, Roxy Roux’s contested marking.

She definitely took it up a notch in that game. I’ve seen a couple of replays of one of the ones she took. It was, yeah, really impressive. Three or four people deep and taking good clunks. So yeah, I think she really, really stood up in that game.

I’m such a fan. You won it by 70 points. But I think the biggest thing in this is the way your forward line can spread. This one was a really good example of that. Obviously, you don’t want to disrespect the opposition, but they’re an expansion side that maybe fell into the situation of finals because of what it happened. What was the mindset going into the game? Was it to put as much score on the board as you can or was it don’t get injured?

We never go into it saying don’t get injured because that’s usually when you do. Never have that mindset, you’re almost guaranteed you’re going to get injured because you hesitate and things like that but no, I think we didn’t want to disrespect them at all because we knew that they’re a good side. They’re probably one of the best, them and St Kilda are probably quite similar in terms of the expansion, they were really quite strong this year. Gold Coast, they’ve done really well during the season and you know, they drew to Brisbane and things like that, so they had a good season. But we knew that they’d come off a pretty rough trot. They had just been in Perth the week before and then had to fly back over here and, we know how tiring that flight can be doing it once every two, three weeks, let alone doing it back to back. 

So I knew that they were probably going to be a little bit tired and a little bit inexperienced as a group together. We wanted to expose that as much as we could, whilst giving them the respect that they deserved. But I think, on the goal kicking front when you win by that much, or when you’re up by that much you can share it around a little bit. So that was really nice. And those games are just really fun to play in. I’m glad we got to play that game because it was a very enjoyable game to play.

And obviously unwittingly, it was the final game of the season, but you’re playing in finals and you won the final which was history making for Freo as well.

Absolutely. Yeah, we just wish that it could have had that momentum and continued on, but it is what it is and it was a good one to finish on regardless.

Just before we finish it off I wanted to know what was your highlight of the season and probably the worst part of the season for you?

We know what the worst parts will be, but I’ll go with the highlight. Highlight first, I think would probably be—despite myself not being able to play the game in its entirety like I’d want to feel so excited for the game—but I think the derby at Optus was just so monumental for WA sport and for all the girls, and to come out and perform the way that we did. I think it probably set up the rest of the season. We didn’t go into that thinking that it was going to be the way that it was. We knew we were capable of that definitely, but you know, anything can happen in a game like that, where there’s so much feeling in it. But yeah, I think that really set up the season; it was an awesome atmosphere at the ground as well. So that was so cool to be involved in, and interesting in the history books. 

And obviously, obviously can’t go past the worst part of the season, it being cancelled. You know, it’s really hard to describe what that actually felt like at the time, a little bit numbing. And then there were tears and frustrations and why this, why that but at the end of the day, I can’t do anything about it and we just refocus and try and build on what, you know, last year we got to that preliminary final and didn’t perform the way that we wanted to there, so we wanted to build on that this year. And despite not being able to go any further than, again, a preliminary final, for different reasons. But I think we did build on what we’ve done last year. So next year, we’re only going to be better. That’s that’s the way it’s going. There’s no other way. We have to go up.

Before we finish, I just want to say thank you to you, not only for joining me today, because it’s a Sunday and everyone should be able to chill on their day off, but also just for being such a good advocate for women’s sport, women’s footy. Because I know that it’s not an easy position to be in. And it means a lot to fans and people like us seeing people like you out there doing it all the time and standing up for that sort of stuff. So I just wanted to say that before we wrap it up.

Oh, thank you. Well, thank you guys for all your support, because we wouldn’t be able to do it if we didn’t have the support of everyone that actually backs it and wants to keep it where it is. So it’s really important that we have that, we have the advocates, not just us advocating for ourselves, but you guys out in the community and across Australia doing what you do and loving footy as much as you do. So we wouldn’t have it otherwise.

Love it a bit too much I think. Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it. Everyone go and follow Hayley wherever she has social media and also support Freo because they’re great, second best behind Melbourne. One team on each side of the country, okay? I’m trying to get someone to send me a Roxy Roux guernsey so I’m still working on that. Someone send me one. Thank you, Hayley. This has been I See It But I Don’t Believe It. That’s been Hayley Miller from the Fremantle Footy Club. We’ll be back in another week with another episode. But otherwise, stay inside and wash your hands.


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