Long travel hours not a deterrent for footy “addict” Williamson

THE total kilometres Swan Hill’s Megan Williamson clocks up each week on public transport might be mind boggling for many, but for the Bendigo Pioneers skipper and now Williamstown VFL Women’s midfielder, she would not have it any other way.

Williamson has university in Melbourne from Monday to Thursday, but it does not stop her attending three nights of football training a week and travelling countless hours a week for the game she loves.

“I live in Swan Hill but I’m currently at uni in Melbourne,” she said. “On a Sunday arvo I get on the train from Swan Hill and travel back to Melbourne four hours, and then Monday night I go to Williamstown VFL for a recovery, and then Tuesday nights is my own personal fitness things. “Then Wednesday nights I’m back at Williamstown for footy training. “I finish class on a Thursday, get straight on a train at Southern Cross head to Bendigo, have my Pioneers training and then travel another two hours home after footy training back to Swan Hill. “Then wherever TAC (Cup Girls) is for the weekend, travel there. “Then travel back to Melbourne for uni for the week. “So I’m travelling a fair bit, but it’s so I can fit all my studies, footy and seeing family in.”

For someone so dedicated to the sport, it is hard to believe she is relative newcomer to the code, having crossed over from the roundball counterpart.

“I was a crossover, so I’ve only been playing footy for four years,” Williamson said. “I was doing a few other sports and mainly soccer, but it was just a matter of my hometown Swan Hill – we got a local girls side – so we got the Woorinen Youth Girls and it was the first season for them starting and I thought ‘why not?’. “Footy was growing, I’ll have a go.”

At first, Williamson tried her hand at juggling both sports, but her attention turned to the newest addition in her repertoire.

“I was playing footy and soccer both at the same time and enjoying both, and then eventually, footy was just of more interest,” she said. “I had a great group of friends there and it’s an addictive sport to be honest. “It was clear the choice to give up the soccer and really focus on my footy and I’m glad that I have, because it’s starting to take me places now.”

But what is it about football that is so addictive to the 18 year-old?

“There’s probably two aspects,” she said. “It would certainly be the sisterhood that you create with the girls that you play with week-in, week-out, you’re there battling each week and I think there’s a sort of sense of family; you look after each other. “You don’t want to let anyone down, so I think the bonds you create is something really exciting. “You want to come back each week, you want to get to training, you want to see your girls again. “Certainly the atmosphere it creates, it’s pretty exciting. “Each contest is a new battle and it’s exciting and your blood’s always pumping and when the crowd gets behind you it’s a good feeling.”

It is no surprise to see the Bendigo Pioneers’ captain named in the AFL Draft Central TAC Cup Girls’ Team of the Year after a consistent season, as well as earning Vic Country honours for the upcoming National AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships.

“I’ve been genuinely happy with my season,” Williamson said. “I think I’ve tried to take the approach that how you train is how you play so I’ve tried to make the most of every training, especially since I travel back two hours to get to my Pioneers training. “I think I’ve worked hard during the season and I’m starting to reap the rewards a little bit. “A few more team wins would have been nicer, but genuinely happy.”

The Pioneers had just the one victory – a Round 1 win over Western Jets. But when asked of her highlight for the year, Williamson named another TAC Cup Girls match.

“I think seeing the girls grow and I think if I pick out one game, it would probably be our game against Eastern Ranges,” she said. “It wasn’t a scoreboard win, but it was definitely an effort-based win. “Week-in, week-out we try to base our team games on effort and being ruthless at the ball and I think that game against Eastern Ranges our backs were against the wall and they’re a great side. “I think we really put it up to them and that was a defining moment, a line in the sand. “Whilst we might not have the girls the other teams do and whilst we have bottom-agers and we don’t get to train together very often, that was the moment if we give it our best, we can put it to the better sides.”

The season ended with four consecutive 10-goal losses, and while travel is always a factor for a young side, Williamson said the travel is what also made it special.

“Yes and no [the travel affected the side towards the end of the season],” she said. “But I think that’s why it’s great. “Footy is such a really inclusive, team sport and that bond. “It’s not a lonely sport, so they can travel that far and they see us girls and we get around them and we can carpool together and make the time worthwhile. “So I think because there’s that great bond, it eliminates the loneliness.”

Williamson has become renowned for being an uncompromising inside midfielder who never takes a backwards step – an area of her game she recognises as one of her strengths.

“I’d like to say I’m a see-ball, get-ball player,” she said. “I like to work my game around being hard at it and hard at the footy and try and get other girls involved. “This year something different [happened] – I’ve never had a leadership role in footy before but this year being captain that was something that was a new challenge. “I really enjoyed a leadership side of it and trying to get more of a team aspect going and make sure the girls are enjoying it and learning and growing. “So as well as trying to play good footy myself, trying to get good team outcome as well.”

As for her improvements, Williamson said she is hoping to become more versatile throughout the year.

“I’d like to become more than just a midfielder, I’d like to have something else to my name,” she said. “If I can improve myself down back which is what I tried to do this year, but as being captain, I tried to take it on board that I wanted to help out the backline. “I think that’s what I’d like to see in my game that I can be an onballer and be hard at it and be good at that, but also float back in defence and try and help out my team as well.”

Last weekend, Williamson made her debut in the blue and gold, with the new Seagull wasting no time at senior level. She picked up 15 disposals, took five marks, laid nine tackles and booted a goal to be named among the best. What made it all the more sweeter – it was Williamstown’s first victory for the season, overcoming Richmond by 31 points.

“I’ve been training with them since I moved down to Melbourne, so it’s been really exciting,” Williamson said. It’s been great having that extra training in and a new team to learn and go with so I’m very excited to start with them. “They’re a great bunch of girls and I’m looking forward to playing some good footy and improving myself and hopefully some wins.”

If the first game is anything to go by, there is no doubt all of those wishes will come true.

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