Giants have point to prove in AFLW
Former Matilda turned AFL gun Ellie Brush says the GWS Giants are a proud team of "misfits" who have the belief they can go all the way in the third season of AFLW.
The cross-coder, who has given up playing in the W-League this season to concentrate on AFLW, says spurring the Giants on is a desire to show the power base of the sport that AFL is alive and very well outside its spiritual home.
Brush says players hailing from outside talent rich Melbourne teams have at times felt "a little dismissed".
But she believes this has made the Giants - a team largely made up of sport orphans who have had to leave their home state to play - more determined to succeed.
"It's Melbourne centric," said Brush, who became involved in AFL via a talent ID program and who also works as a physiotherapist four days a week outside training hours.
"We never had the option of playing from five and six years-old. We are coming from behind a little.
"We call ourselves the misfits, the Dad's Army. Some girls may have been shunned from other states, told they were too small or not good enough. It makes our group even closer. And it gives us more drive to perform at our best.
"The sport, not being professional yet, means those girls from Perth, Adelaide, have had to leave their lives, pay rent, try and maybe start a new life here.
"It's harder because they are not in their home state. They have taken a leap of faith to come to Sydney. It's made us closer as a group."
The majority of players in the Giants squad hail from outside NSW and the ACT - including five South Australians and players from Victoria (seven), Western Australia (two), Tasmania (one), Queensland (1)and two from overseas.
But things are changing quickly with female AFL club participation increasing by 46 per cent across Sydney from 2017 to 2018 and AFL NSW/ACT recording a female club participation growth of 41 per cent in 2018.
After claiming the wooden spoon in season one, the Alan McConnell coached Giants last season fell just short of making the Grand Final and Brush says the close call has given the team great motivation to excel in 2019.
"In the first season were seen as the team no one expected to do any good and we were able to match it with the best," she said.
"It gave us a belief for the second season. But now, having our core together as well as our coach, we want to go all the way and will be disappointed if we don't go the whole way.
"Had we won our final round game we would have made the grand final so last year's result will make us hungrier."
Brush this year has opted to concentrate solely on AFL at the expense of her W-League football, hoping the decision not only makes her life a little less hectic but also translates into improvement on the ground.
"Last season I was going to Wanderers training before work and the Giants in the afternoon at one period," she said. "This will make it a lot easier to focus.
"I can actually go and see a physio myself and recover properly and do all those things correctly. They are the things that sometimes lag behind.
"I have been able to watch a lot more vision, educate myself on the game and the sport in general and get a lot more quality time on the training paddock.
"I have to hope it will make me a better player because I have put more time into the team and training."