PERSEVERANCE and grasping opportunities have helped Oakleigh Chargers captain, Hannah McLaren reach the highest level of her junior football career. From somewhat sulking on the sidelines at Auskick, to leading the TAC Cup Girls side out each week, McLaren is a player who has grown throughout her football journey.
“I started playing Auskick,” she said. “I used to stand on the sidelines and watch my brother and I was so jealous. “Mum used to give me a sausage just to make me be quiet. “But I said to her ‘I want to be out there’ so I started playing Auskick with him and then all through juniors we played together and then finally it got to the stage I couldn’t play anymore and I was devastated. “Then finally my club got a girls team together so I was lucky enough to be able to play with Surrey Park for a couple of years.”
McLaren recalls the moment she joined the Chargers.
“I actually got a call from Luke (O’Shannessy, Oakleigh Chargers Girls coach) and he said ‘we’d like to have you on our list’ and I said ‘that sounds like a great opportunity to grow as a person, grow as a footballer’ and that’s how it all started really,” she said. “I’ve loved it (captaining). “It was a good opportunity to grow as a leader, as a person, I found it coming into this year I was a bit nervous, but yeah really settled down and was able to lead the girls out for the nine games.”
Her performances throughout the TAC Cup Girls season warranted selection in the Vic Metro squad, earning her place in the final 24-player side which travelled to the Gold Coast for the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, something she was looking forward to in the lead-up to the championships.
“It does mean a lot (Vic Metro selection),” she said. “I’m very excited. “The group of girls we’ve got this year is absolutely fantastic. I think we will do really well this year. Hopefully we will just keep ticking by the training sessions and see how it all goes.”
McLaren credits her parents for giving her the opportunities to play at the level she does.
“Really I wouldn’t be able to play footy without my parents, you know Mum drives me absolutely everywhere just to play the game I love,” McLaren said. “Dad (Scott McLaren, AFL umpire) watching him growing up, I always loved watching him on the MCG umpiring. “It is a bit different playing, but I always had that goal to be at that elite level.”
While when she was younger the pathway was not what it is today, McLaren always aspired to play at the highest level.
“(I’ve) always had footy there,” McLaren said. “I’ve played it constantly through my junior years so it’s only now that the opportunity can arise. “For girls now my age and younger, have all got that to aspire to in the future.”
McLaren has also noticed the clear rise in quality in the TAC Cup Girls competition as players improve and clubs build depth in the ranks.
“Yeah absolutely, the standard the TAC lifted a lot this year,” McLaren said. “I think from where it was last year, it’s higher intensity, it’s a lot faster and the talent is growing just incredibly.”
Right now McLaren is focusing on her studies as she comes to the end of her 13-year school journey.
“I am studying Year 12 at the moment, so it’s a good balance between the two,” McLaren said. “I am looking to study at university next year, hopefully paramedicine or nursing, so that’s a little goal of mine, but it’s obviously a little difficult to balance the two, but I do think having footy there does keep me on top of my school work.”
A member of Collingwood’s Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s side, McLaren has already tasted senior action early in the year and is looking forward to more.
“It was really good, I absolutely loved it,” she said. “It was good intensity and the group at Collingwood they really get around the new girls so it was really good.”