In her second year in the AFL Women’s competition, Melbourne’s Eliza West is having a clear influence in the midfield rotation. Playing in a star-studded team like the Demons, West is still learning from all of her teammates, which has only helped her own development as she grows in stature in the league and in the sport itself.
Since swapping from basketball to Aussie Rules football, West has become a very reliable midfielder for the Demons. Her growth in the game has surprised most but she is very humble given her own form.
Speaking exclusively to The Inner Sanctum, West explains what it’s like to be supported by some of the best players in the competition in Karen Paxman, Olivia Purcell, Lily Mithen and Tyla Hanks and how it’s only spurred her on to become better.
“It’s been such a good experience for me and I think being so new to football, having them around and just getting their input day-in and day-out [on] game days, [at] training, it has just been massive personally,” West explained.
She then goes on to explain how the group have grown together and made themselves one of the hardest midfields to play in the AFLW.
“I think it has just helped all of us together because I think going back and forth with them it helps me massively but [also] I think it helps them because I ask a lot of questions, which also makes them think.
“As a collective we’ve grown so much together [over] these past two seasons [and] considering we have only been together over the past two seasons [our growth] has been massive, like it’s a huge improvement considering some of these teams have been together for six seasons or seven seasons.”Embed from Getty Images
When looking at the midfield that the Demons possess, there are two names that quite new to the club itself, those being West and Purcell. Purcell started at Melbourne in season six after being traded to the club from Geelong, which was the first season that West played senior football.
Rupturing her ACL in 2021, Purcell sought a fresh start at a new club where she could see more success. Only having played six games for the red and blue, she’s been a force to be reckoned with. This season from three games played, she averages 23 disposals, 267.3 metres gained, 1.3 marks and two tackles a game.
Sharing a close bond with your teammates is the key to being able to win the midfield battle because you can work without having to communicate. This is the bond these two players share as West explained.
“I absolutely love playing with Liv, I think the fact that she’s back to being fully fit, she’s amazing,” she said.
“I think she adds some much to this team and we work so well together. [Having] both of us being out there after games or intra-clubs, we are just like we just love playing together.
“We love working with each other, working off each other and we have a real good trust [forming], if she’s going in, she’s going to win it and if I’m going in then she’s backing that I’m gonna win it and we are able to make decisions just based off that.”Embed from Getty Images
When speaking about her football club, West has nothing but praise especially when talking about their culture and the way things are run.
“It’s super special and I love being a part of it,” West said.
“To be put into a team in the AFLW like Melbourne, it’s such a big family and [the] culture and the professionalism at the club is amazing.
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else so it’s super special and I think I just want to work hard for the team, for the staff, for everybody and I think everyone has that mindset and so I think we are really well set up for the season because of it.”
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In the decider of season six, Melbourne played the Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval. Losing by 13 points in a relatively close game, season seven couldn’t have come at a better time for the Demons.
Playing in the AFLW grand final, West knows all too well what the heartache of losing on the big stage feels like. She speaks about how the Demons will use it to better themselves so they might be on the other side of the ledger.
“We definitely looked back on it quickly, we identified what went wrong but then we are pretty big on you can’t keep dwelling on the past and [you have to] move on,” she said.
“We had to say to ourselves, the next season is coming around super quick so we have to better ourselves and not worry about what we did and didn’t do.
“We’ve got to focus on what we can control and that’s what we are doing right now and I think the quick turnaround was pretty good for us because it allowed us to move on and get straight into the next season.
“I think it’s a bit of everything, you are never not going to be upset about it but I think everyone’s in a pretty good mindset about focusing on ourselves and what we can do.”Embed from Getty Images
One of the highlights for the Demons and their supporters have been the games they have had the opportunity of playing at the home of football, the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
West was one of those players who took part in the first ever AFLW final at the MCG, the first home and away match against North Melbourne as well as a practice match against Carlton. Speaking about the experience, it was evident that it meant a lot to the players and should be a feature of the fixture.
“I think it’s amazing and I think the fact that we’ve played there three times now,” West said.
“The last time we played there we thought this is not how it should be and it felt like we put in all this work, we deserve to be playing on all these grounds because it sets up a professional environment for us and I think you get our best quality from using the best quality grounds.
“I think it shouldn’t be looked at so much as a one off or a super special experience for the girls, it should just become the mainstream for us in future.
“I think the way the game is growing and with us putting in more hours it’s only going to get better over time, I think we are heading in that direction definitely.”
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