Georgia Nanscawen’s sporting journey is one of resilience and heart, qualities that have moulded her into the Essendon Bombers’ inaugural AFLW signing.
Like many women in the early years of the AFLW competition, Nanscawen transitioned from one sporting career, an Olympian with the Hockeyroos, to Aussie rules, a sport that she loved at a young age.
A spot on North Melbourne’s AFLW list beckoned, and by Nanscawen’s own admission, she was always wary of her place.
Speaking exclusively to The Inner Sanctum, Nanscawen spoke candidly on the difficult beginning to her career, along with her journey to return to the highest level.
“Obviously North recruited an extremely strong team that was pretty hard to crack in but I certainly left no stone unturned there and don’t have any regrets,” she recalled.
“I absolutely gave it everything I could.
“At the end of the season, to be delisted, I sort of accepted that for what it was and certainly (had) no regrets there and along with that presented the opportunity to go across to Essendon which has obviously worked out pretty well for me.”
The Essendon that Nanscawen refers to is not the AFLW side, but rather her time in the VFLW.
Despite not taking part in the AFLW’s first six seasons, the Bombers have held a team in the reserves competition, a team in which Nanscawen has starred in since her first in 2019.
When Nanscawen first arrived however, the Bombers were struggling.
“I wasn’t there in the first year at Essendon… it’s pretty widely spoken about that in their first year, they won one game and pretty much celebrated every goal because they were hard to come by,” she said.
“Brendan Major, who’s our coach and has been the coach the whole time had a bit of a vision about where the group could go… each year it’s been chipped away at and built and built as a group.
“We’re sort of now seeing all the players come to fruition and it’s really exciting to see that development taking shape and the vision and plans that were set in place five years ago. It’s something that I’m very proud of.”
Nanscawen has been an out and out star since arriving in the VFLW, with a team of the year selection, club best and fairest and league best and fairest to show for it. Her only mountain left to conquer, is a premiership.
Playing as an inside midfielder, Nanscawen has the second most disposals this season with 347, at an average of 24.8 a game.
This included massive hauls of 33 against Darebin in Round 11 and 30 against Port Melbourne in Round 2.
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Previously with North Melbourne, Nanscawen was primarily used up forward, a time in which she was still working to transition her game over properly from hockey into Aussie rules.
“I always enjoyed kicking a football around but because hockey took off at such a young age and there weren’t the pathways in place that there are now for women’s football, hockey was the direction I went in,” she said.
“When I stopped playing [hockey] it was a great opportunity to try something different.
“Obviously I had a lot to learn about the game and I think initially it was having the coordination and that competitiveness and a bit of the athleticism that came across from elite hockey [that helped].
“Even translating from hockey I guess as you look at it it’s two very different sports. But certain things that I could take from my hockey background such as running around in that low, bent-over position has certainly come to help with ground balls and that kind of side of things.”
On Sunday afternoon, Nanscawen has the chance to lead her side to that elusive flag against a plucky Southern Saints outfit, a campaign that has helped keep her mind off the impending AFLW season.
“To be honest, the focus at that stage (when she was signed) was doing my bit to have a really good season with the VFL and get the team into a really good position.
“The AFLW stuff is kind of back-seat in the mind and doing all the right things in the VFL has obviously helped with that signing.
Nanscawen, who was co-captain of the VFLW side this season, hopes to head to the AFLW on a high after a win against the Saints, who she believes are “peaking at the right time” to create a tight contest for the flag.
The weeks after will then be spent fully invested in her return to the AFLW, a fact of which she didn’t learn long before the rest of the country did.
“I really didn’t know or officially find out until about a day before the video was released about me finding out,” she said.
“Up until that point there really wasn’t to much talk of it. Obviously it was there in the background that that was something to work towards and was a little bit of a carrot dangling at the end.
“It was quite a shock still for it to all happen and I guess to be the first is still something that’s still yet to fully sink in.
“We had the 150th year gala a couple of weeks ago and being part of that and hearing the stories and the rich history of the Essendon Football Club, it’s sort of then that it really only hits home what a proud history that they have and how special it is to be part of that.”
The Bombers recruiting for their first AFLW season has been widely lauded, attracting big names from around the country to play for the red and black.
The likes of former Blues duo Georgia Gee and Maddy Prespakis have made their way over to the Hangar, along with former Bulldog Bonnie Toogood and Cat Sophie Van De Heuvel.
But while the big names are evident, what isn’t as much is the faith that the club has paid in its own developmental system.
After signing Nanscawen, the Bombers have since signed seven players from their reserves team, with the likes of VFLW leading goalkicker Federica Frew and fellow midfield gun Jordan Zanchetta.
Nanscawen said on the signings of her fellow VFLW bombers that “it can only be a good thing”.
“Having that bit of a base of players that already know each other really well… when you talk about expansion teams it’s generally a whole lot of players coming from a whole lot of different areas.
“That’s one of the challenges with expansion and getting a team to bond particularly in such a short amount of time.
“To have a base of girls that already do know each other and know how we play is certainly a great foundation to build upon.”
Speaking on the imported stars, Nanscawen said she’s excited to get to work.
“It’s incredibly exciting. As the club made announcements… no one was more excited than the players themselves who get to play with those girls.
“We’ve only been at training the last couple of weeks but getting to learn off players who have dominated and established themselves really well in the game is fantastic.
“To be able to learn from those girls I think pushes the group forward really well and it’s really exciting to be part of such a group.”
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