Bonnie Toogood poses for a photo with Essendon men's captain Dyson Heppell. (Photo: Essendon FCW)

Essendon AFLW recruit Bonnie Toogood is enjoying the opportunity to build a new environment and culture at Tullamarine.

Essendon AFLW recruit Bonnie Toogood is enjoying the opportunity to build a new environment and culture at Tullamarine.

Recruited from the Western Bulldogs to be a part of the Bombers’ inaugural side, herself and her teammates are aspiring to build ‘authentic and genuine’ connections as quickly as possible.

With their first game just five weeks away, there’s little time to waste.

Pre-season has been a rewarding one so far, she said. Part of the challenge for the Bombers will be uniting players from their VFLW program, other AFLW clubs, as well as players new to the AFLW entirely.

“It’s been a really fun experience getting to meet a whole group of 30 new players as well as a bunch of staff that I’ve never met,” Toogood told The Inner Sanctum on Thursday.

“It’s bringing all different people together. Moving in the one direction has been the challenge but it’s been a good one.

“[It’s] something that I’ve been sinking my teeth into and making sure we’re setting the foundation we want to moving forward.”

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Now an experienced AFLW player with 37 games under her belt, Toogood has an important role to play as a developing leader in the club.

Alongside the likes of Cat Phillips (44 games), Steph Cain (44 games), Georgia Gee (40 games) and Maddy Prespakis (34 games), she’ll be responsible for setting standards within the young group.

A strong personality heavily involved in media and having been a part of the leadership group at the Bulldogs, Toogood would be an easy candidate as the club’s inaugural skipper.

Her leadership is something that she’s continuing to work on as she grows as a player.

“I aspire to be a leader in all aspects of my life. If I can play a role in setting the foundation for a brand new club, I will,” Toogood said.

“That’s really my driving focus at the moment, because we’ve got to technically catch up to all the established clubs.

“Just being a leader in all aspects of life, I just want to be the best person I can be and make sure I’m helping all the people around me to be the best versions of themselves as well.”

Impressing on the track

Since the squad of 30 was completed at the end of June, the players have been working hard to make their Round 1 case to coach Nat Wood.

With a solid mix of experienced talent and bright youngsters, there’s bound to be a fierce level of competitiveness within the walls of Tullamarine.

The Bombers, as an expansion club, had a strong draft hand to work with. They made seven selections, bringing in players across all areas of the ground.

Toogood has been particularly impressed by one of her likely forward line partners.

“Our draftees have all been impressive, all good sized bodies,” Toogood said.

“Amber Clarke, who was our first pick, she’s an absolute weapon when it comes to her speed and her goal sense. She’s really impressed me within these past two weeks.”

As expected by most, Essendon looked heavily to its premiership VFLW squad, recruiting 10 players from the state league side.

Players like Joanne Doonan, Dani Marshall and Jordan Zanchetta were given another chance at the top level, while others like Amelia Radford and Renee Tierney made their names known with breakout seasons.

The endeavour that the girls making the step up have shown has matched even the proven best on the list.

“When it comes to our crossover girls I’ve really enjoyed watching Eloise [Ashley-Cooper], we call her ‘Coops’. She’s been really impressive… committed to the club and play your role kind of person,” Toogood said.

“I’ve really enjoyed having conversations with her and getting to know more about the club, she’s been really impressive from that aspect as well.

“The list goes on, you’ve got Georgia Gee, Maddy Prespakis, Soph Alexander, Steph Cain who came from Freo, there’s so many excitement machines… everyone’s kind of impressed me.”

Essendon will take to the field for its first AFLW match on Saturday, August 27 against Hawthorn at North Port Oval.

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