IF there is one player in the TAC Cup Girls competition who has come from the back of the pack to storm home in the final straight, it is Eastern Ranges’ Mikala Cann. Having starred as a sprinter, and enjoyed playing basketball, Cann decided to try her hand at football once her friends were taking up the sport.
“I was playing basketball before I played footy and a lot of my mates started playing so I think that was the biggest influence and I really love the physically side of basketball, so coming to footy it’s all about the physicality and I really loved that part,” Cann said. “That was the main influence right there.”
Having rocked up to Eastern Ranges try-outs in the pre-season and not sure what to expect, Cann not only managed to hold her own, she caused some jaw-dropping reactions with her ability to use her great combination of speed and strength in advantage. Eastern Ranges Female Talent Manager Jessie Mulholland singled out Cann as one to watch from the pre-season.
“Mikala Cann – she has never played football in her life and she’s definitely going to be a utility player [to watch],” Mulholland said. “She can run out of that 50 insanely. “She played midfield on the weekend [vs. Calder two weekends ago] and the way she can get that ball out of the centre square will be incredible to watch for somebody that has no idea. “Basically we have to teach her the rules from scratch.”
The assessment was something Cann could relate to, admitting the rules were an area she had to learn.
“I think it was the knowledge that a lot of the other girls had because they had that first year playing at Eastern and that was the difference,” Cann said. “Me trying to learn all the structures and the positions and just really learning about the game. “That was the biggest thing, really trying to learn where the ball is and where to stand and all that. But they’ve done really well and taught me a lot, so I’ve learnt a lot, it’s been really good.”
Cann said the development at the Ranges was first class and has helped her rapid rise to Vic Metro and named in the TAC Cup Girls Team of the Year.
“Absolutely (love it),” the Eastern Ranges midfielder said. “I reckon I enjoy it (footy) more than basketball, I enjoy Eastern, there are such good people around. “I’ve loved every minute of it, it’s been so good. “I played a bit at school footy, but it was more just running around with mates. “It wasn’t really intensive skills or that. “I was just trying to kick a few snags, not in terms of technical stuff we do here.”
Cann said the physical nature of the game is what attracted her to the sport, and what she considered to be a major strength in her game.
“I think my strengths and what they really try teach me to do and focus on is my in and under, so tackling, and pressure and then trying to burst away from the contest too,” she said. “Getting in and under and getting it out and getting away too. “My physical side I try to focus on most.”
Along with her continued game sense, Cann said she was learning to kick on her opposite foot “as much as she didn’t want to”.
“Obviously the knowledge of the game,” she said. “Getting to the contests and knowing where the ball’s going to be, where to stand, how to read the tap from ruckman’s tap, they’re the biggest one. “Also my skill level too. “Using my left side, as much as I don’t want to, I have to as you get higher up, you’re going to need to start.”
Such has been Cann’s rise in the football ranks that the sprinter is now on the verge of a finals appearance for Hawthorn in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition. Once told of her call-up to Hawthorn intially, Cann could hardly believe it.
“Not really at all (expecting to be picked for VFLW), I was just trying to get picked every week,” Cann said. “I was really focusing on VFL and/or higher up and I think just focusing on each week has enabled me to really try and play the best each week and not really focus on it. “I like thinking in the now, rather than the future. “That’s really enabled me, but I never really thought about it.”
Cann said the close bond at Eastern made it an enjoyable year, and heading to the Gold Coast with so many teammates – and head coach Tom Humphrey – made it an easy transition into Vic Metro. The eye-catching runner said the team success had made everyone better players.
“I thought that we played really well against some really top quality sides and I think we developed and we got better as we got on, which is the best thing that can really happen is your improvement and individually,” Cann said. “I feel like I played well when the team played well. “When the team’s up and about, it gets everyone up and about.”
Cann said she was lucky not to have too much travel involved with her football saying she enjoyed the road trips.
“It’s not too bad, fortunately enough, mum loves coming to my games so she’ll always drive me,” she said. “I really like the driving to the games, the experience and the excitement for a game, I dunno, I love it. It’s not too bad.”
As for the next step in her career? Cann was determined to make it as high up as possible.
“Yeah to get drafted is the end-goal,” Cann said. “I guess that’s for everyone, but we’ll see how we go.”