Coming into the fourth AFLW Western Derby, the Dockers ran out onto Fremantle Oval with six debutants in tow.
There were some truly feel-good stories in the group. Aine Tighe has waited over two years, far away from Ireland and battling knee injuries and constant setbacks.
Former North Melbourne VFLW winger Airlie Runnalls has similarly made her way far from home, the Victorian opening herself up to the national draft pool just to get her shot at the top level.
Dana East made the move three hours down south to continue her football career before being drafted, a basketball convert. Jess Low quickly worked her way up from the ammos, while Makaela Tuhakaraina sprinted up draft boards after converting to Aussie rules from rugby league.
But it was Ann McMahon who has arguably the hardest path of the bunch, her footballing career nearly torn away from her off-field right after it started.
After being drafted at pick 35 in October 2019, McMahon was tragically hit by a car while working as a police officer, breaking her leg and rupturing her ACL.
Her rehab was long and painful, but looking ahead to the 2021 season, she was finally ready to make a start.
She slowly returned through the WAFLW, building up her fitness throughout 2021, but still couldn’t debut, though she did play in the Dockers’ practice game against the Eagles ahead of Round 1.
Getting through unscathed in the loss, she was named on the 21-woman team sheet for Saturday’s Derby.
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McMahon found the ball in her hands early, taking a quick but wayward snap at goals out of a churning pack. While her skills let her down, her effort couldn’t be knocked.
Her hard tackling and pressure game was on show, finishing with a whopping seven tackles for the game. She buried Charlie Thomas and Maddy Collier into the turf in the first half, full of intent.
“Ann McMahon was a bit slow to get into the game, but she worked into it well,” coach Trent Cooper said of his debutant post-game.
“It would have been lovely if she could have scored that goal late.”
McMahon was a part of a forward group that worked hard all game long, out-tackling the Eagles 17-5 inside 50 and beating them for tackles 79-59 overall.
She would continually help to support the more dangerous goal scorers, allowing Ebony Antonio and Hayley Miller to kick a career high three and two goals respectively.
McMahon can put a feather in her cap as part of the side that kept the Western Derby tally pointed towards her side’s way, still not having dropped one yet.
“In some ways [this one] has more merit because West Coast are improving,” Cooper said.
“We’re really happy. Today, we had a younger list than West Coast, we had a less experienced list out there on the park today. It’s really good for those six debutants to come into such a fierce, competitive game and produce.”
Fremantle will take to the road for the next month, playing all four of its next games across Victoria and Tasmania.
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