WORK ethic and team cohesion was the cornerstone of Gippsland Power’s season, and for co-captain Tyla Hanks, the unbelievable improvement in season 2018 compared to last year was clear. Hanks said the growth of women’s football was exciting for everyone involved.
“I think everyone’s excited,” she said. “But to see myself, and what it felt like to play with Gippy last year, it’s still an amazing experience, but to see girls come back better and us be competitive in the league was, it was first hand you see how people are growing and how much the game is growing so you pass on that knowledge and teach the others has been really incredible. “I think it’s awesome to see where we’ve come from considering last year we lost quite a lot of game, we lost all our games, but by big margins and we weren’t really as competitive as we liked and then to come into this season and get a few wins and the ones we lost we were close as well, so it was really good.”
Gippsland indeed went from a winless season to one where they not only had three wins and a draw – against the previously undefeated Murray Bushrangers – but they were competitive in every match outside of the Round 1 heavy defeat to Oakleigh Chargers. Once they found their rhythm, they really got going, and for Hanks, like many of the other passionate footballers, it was about taking lessons from their TAC Cup Girls experience and using it to promote the game locally.
“I think with the TAC season being so short, it’s really important whatever the girls have learnt here,” Hanks said. “To keep growing the game we go back to our local clubs where we came from and we spread that knowledge. “As we have with the younger girls at Gippy, they now go back and they start teaching the younger girls at their clubs so trying to just improve the training and all of that.”
For Hanks, the season provided plenty of promise for the players, and the improvement internally drove the playing group to high standards throughout the year. The Power midfielder said the players could be proud of what they produced and it is something to take away from the year.
“Probably just that effort (we can take away),” Hanks said. “We had pressure and I think we were competitive with teams, we just gave it our all. “We weren’t the most talented, we didn’t have amazing players like some of the other teams do, but we all really tried hard and we put in all we could so if they could take that back to their local clubs, that’s really good.”
It all started with the drought-breaking win at Casey Fields, where the two previously winless sides faced off and it was the Power that felt the sense of relief wash over them by the final siren.
“Probably Western Jets win (was my favourite moment),” Hanks said. “That was our first win. “We kicked a couple of goals against the wind at Casey, we were in a good position but we held on and that was the first time we’ve ever sung the song, so not many of us knew it, but that was a really special experience.”
It has been a while since Hanks’ football journey started, and it was not always on the horizon as a future pathway, but with the rise of AFL Women’s, Hanks has had the luxury of focusing on the one sport since choosing Australian Rules over basketball.
“I started Auskick in Prep, so I was five,” Hanks said. “Then I played footy and basketball for a couple of years. “Then I stopped at under 13s because I obviously couldn’t play with the boys anymore and then I chose basketball for one or two years. “When the AFL got announced I thought I’m not really enjoying basketball anymore so I changed over and kept playing in Beaccy (Beaconsfield) Youth Girls.”
Now studying at university, Hanks makes the trip home between her games, and while the season is over for her, the season was a memorable one. She earned All Australian honours, was named vice-captain in that side, and was also named in the TAC Cup Girls Team of the Year.
“I’m in Melbourne at ACU,” Hanks said. “I’m still living at home, it was a little harder, but I chose to stay at home because I was going back to Morwell. “So I’ll probably still drive into the city, but financially I’m still happy to stay at home, it’s only 45 to an hour so it’s not too bad, and a lot of the other girls do the same thing, so I don’t work full-time, so I’ve got a bit more time on my hands. “Travel’s not too big of a deal for me now, but depending on what happens in the next few years, that will probably dictate more of where I’m living.”