Port Adelaide ruck recruit Olivia Levicki (Picture: PAFCW, Design by Will Cuckson)

Coming off rising star nominations to Abbey Dowrick in Round One and Hannah Ewings in Round Three, it’s not only the top end talent at Port Adelaide that’s encouraging for supporters. Coming off their first premiership points in the competition, Port Adelaide are looking to go one better against fellow expansion side the Sydney Swans.

One player that also had a solid impact for Port Adelaide in her first season is ruck/forward Olivia Levicki. Speaking exclusively to The Inner Sanctum in the lead up to the match-up against the Swans, she is buoyed by the talent in the team and the performances of the young brigade.

Both Dowrick and Ewings have not only impressed in terms of their performances but their consistency across the three games so far. Ewings averages 14 disposals and five tackles a game, while Dowrick averages 15 disposals, three marks and just under five tackles.

“I’m pretty sure I heard we are the youngest team or we have the most young ones in our squad and I think 16 or so [players] have never played AFLW before so we are quite a new group,” Levicki explained.

“[We are also] new to the comp as well but we’ve got such exciting talent in our group, like those girls that have rising star nominations.

“They’ve certainly shown what they are capable of as individuals and what they can bring to Port Adelaide as a whole and it just shows if we play our best we do look really good and really competitive against good opposition.

“I’m really excited for what’s to come and watching these young ones step up and everyone really in the team, the growth i think is certainly getting there and we will get there each week.”

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A dominant third quarter blitz in their first ever game in Round One against the Eagles was overtaken by an even better last quarter by the West Coast. Following this was a tight tussle for a half against the Bulldogs until they kicked away in the second half to leave Port Adelaide 0-2.

When considering the first win for Port Adelaide was on the cards against Carlton on the weekend, Levicki was pragmatic in her response saying that the team felt flat, however they know where the keys to improvement lie.

“I think coming off our third game in and then coming off two losses, obviously having the draw result on the weekend, wasn’t what we wanted but it’s kind of hard to say because there’s a bit of feeling within the group like a bit of both feelings,” she said.

“There is some growth and we definitely know we were capable of beating a team like Carlton but then having the draw, it just makes you feel a bit flat I guess after the game.

“You want to win at the end of the day, whether it be a point or goal but it was a draw and [so you have to] learn from these lessons.

“I think for us we are really trying to focus in on our starts of the games and our finishes because I think we’ve definitely showed in the second or third quarter what we are capable of but coming out stronger in the first and the last and really finishing it off [is what we need to improve on].”

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Levicki herself is a phenomenal athlete playing nine seasons in the WNBL until five years ago when she started playing more locally. Spotted playing for South Adelaide in the NBL1 by Port Adelaide captain Erin Phillips, she decided to take a gamble on playing with someone who’s been a big idol of hers before they crossed paths.

As Phillips prepares for her 50th game in Round Four, Levicki explained her influence on her as a sporting legend, as a person and as the club captain.

“She’s been so supportive [and] obviously she’s our captain as well [but she’s been supportive] from the day that she messaged me to try footy and come to port,” Levicki said.

“I remember rocking up on my first day and seeing Erin in the locker rooms and thought oh my gosh to myself even sitting next to her [as we were] about to run out for our first ever training session, it was just so amazing.

“I look up to someone like her obviously she’s got quite the resume not only with basketball and now footy as well. Someone like her has sort of done it all [and] she’s a dual Olympian.

“I think she’s been a great mentor and not just to me but to the whole group and she’s just such a professional in everything she does and everyone values that at the club.”

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Another influential figure at Port Adelaide in the AFLW program is the head coach Lauren Arnell. Having been an inaugural captain at Carlton as well as boasting a premiership playing for the Lions before hanging up the boots, she was the best choice for Port Adelaide.

Becoming the first ever AFLW player to go on to coach a side, Arnell has been a tremendous recruit for Port Adelaide. Levicki explains how Arnell gets the best out of her players and how Port Adelaide has lived out their promise for more females in the AFLW ranks.

“She’s been really, really good and I think not just for myself but for the whole playing group,” she explained.

“It’s Loz’s (Arnell) first year as a senior AFLW coach too and I think having someone like her, I think it’s been refreshing with coaches, I mean personally I’ve only ever had male coaches and at Port Adelaide they’ve brought in the head of AFLW is a female in Juliet Haslam and Rachael Sporn is at the club and Lauren Arnell.

“I think it’s a really refreshing AFLW team with female coaches too, she’s done such an amazing job so far and I’m sure she wants to see a win for the whole playing group and all of us.

“She’s got a really good connection with everyone on the team, she spends a lot of time catching up with each individual so she’s always there to chat and I think that’s always important to have as a player and coach like relationship.”

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Port Adelaide play the Sydney Swans on Saturday with both sides a chance for their maiden AFLW win.

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