Resilient Evans maintains focus over challenging time

IT has been a challenging 18 months for a lot of aspiring Australian rules footballers, and Gold Coast Suns Academy talent from the Northern Rivers region, Imogen Evans is no different. In fact, for a player unfortunately on the New South Wales side of the border, Evans has had to watch on as many of her teammates competed at the recent AFL Women’s Under 17 Championships clashes which were as close as just 15 minutes away from where she lives.

This is part two of the two-part feature series on Evans, focusing on the challenges presented by the 2021 lockdowns and border closures.

>> PART I: Determined Suns talent Imogen Evans enjoying social side and physicality of footy

Unfortunately 2021 has not exactly gone to plan, with the state representative only able to play one Under 19s match due to a Queensland COVID-19 scare earlier in the year scrapping the initial April venues for the championships, then unable to face Vic Metro when Victoria went into lockdown. The clash against Vic Country was a welcome change in an interrupted year. But alas, it would strike again for the two Under 17s games where Gold Coast Suns recently defeated Brisbane Lions over the past week. Matches which, due to the border closures, prevented Evans and her Northern Rivers teammates from taking part.

Fortunately, Evans has remained determined to do whatever she can to remain fit and ready to go when borders are reopened and she can rejoin her Academy teammates.

“It’s not as good as I would prefer, but I’ve tried to do my best, and at the moment I’m doing about three runs a week differing interval training and long runs,” Evans said. “Then I’m learning skills, then two to three times a week as well, and when the gyms are open I’m gymming two to three times as well. “Just to make sure I’m not doing nothing so I’m ready to go back when the borders open and still perform at a good level.”

Whilst disappointed in not being able to run out for the Academy, Evans said the Suns were doing all they could to keep those New South Wales residents involved in not only training but match days, such as the pregame address via Zoom from last Wednesday’s match at Moreton Bay Sporting Complex.

“I’ve been in contact with our head coach Sam (Iles) and he’s been really good trying to get us involved, especially today inviting us to the pregame chat,” she said post-game. “We were sitting there on Zoom watching the girls. “It was kind of sad I couldn’t be there, but it good to be at least be there and be amongst it, and get a sense of what the atmosphere was like. “It’s especially disappointing I can’t be there especially because I’m only 15 minutes away, but it is what it is, and I can’t do anything about it.

“I get that it’s hard for the Academy to keep us involved, because there’s not really much, like you can keep in contact but you can’t really do a lot. “Having some of the girls down here with me, and being able to catch up with them, and do kicks when we’re allowed to has been a lifesaver.”

Evans is looking forward to playing alongside the likes of Alana Gee and Fleur Davies next year for the Suns and Queensland.

“She’s (Gee) an absolute weapon and I think we link up really well,” Evans said. “She’s a winger, super quick and I think I can get in and under and I always know where she is, we’re a great link up there. “Definitely Fleur Davies as well. Great overhead, she’s tall, great ruck.”

Whilst the past couple of seasons have had interruptions, the talented ball-winner is hoping her draft-eligible year of 2022 can be different, and she is particularly looking forward to getting back amongst the thick of it in her preferred position of midfield, though she did enjoy a role change at QAFL Women’s level.

“My main position is midfield however I don’t mind being put up in half-forward flank,” Evans said. “I’ve been introduced to that in women’s and I enjoyed that. Definitely transitioning from half-forward to midfield would be optimal.”

No doubt everyone in the footballing world is hoping optimistically for more continuity in 2022 with the best possible young talents running around, and that includes Evans.

Picture credit: David Layden Photography

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