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Hardiman follows in cousin's footsteps

Lucy Watkin, Carlton Media  February 8, 2017 2:31 PM

Game Changers Update | Round 2 Carlton Media's Grace Phillips brings you all the news from Ikon Park as the Blues prepare for their Round 2 clash against GWS.

Danielle Hardiman proved herself to be one of the strongest set of hands in the AFLW last Friday night, with a formidable performance in the backline.

Hardiman played a key role for the Blues on the night, keeping Collingwood star forward Mo Hope to one behind in the Blues' 35-point victory.

Hardiman grew up watching her cousin Jason Saddington play for Carlton and Sydney, and it was a game she saw her cousin play at the MCG that made her want to give football a shot.

“I always wanted to play because I always watched him (Saddington) play, and mum always told me play if you like it,” she said.

“To me it was just a boys’ sport, then I saw at this particular match that there was a VIC women’s team and I realised girls could play footy so I signed up and started playing the next year.”

AFL Round 17 - Carlton v St Kilda
Former Blue Jason Saddington. (Photo: AFL Media)

Hardiman went on to excel in football, playing in the Victorian under-18s squads, in the youth girl academies and then at Hallam Sports Academy. It was at Hallam Sports Academy that she met Brett Alexander, one of Carlton’s AFLW assistant coaches, who was able to teach her the importance of being strong in the backline.

“He (Brett Alexander) taught me a lot about playing centre-half back, and showed me how to respect it at the same time. You have to try your best but it’s not all about you, it’s about the team.”

While she was dominating on the field, Hardiman was unsure about her future and commitment to football. However, when the young defender suffered a knee injury in the last quarter of Melbourne versus Brisbane exhibition game in March of last year, she realised how much she wanted to pursue the game.

With the pressures of working full-time as well as training and playing football taking their toll, Hardiman’s commitment started to wane, but seeing her teammates on Whitten Oval during the historic 2016 exhibition game from the sidelines ignited her passion for the game again.

 

“I thought I might not miss it because I’d played for so long and I didn’t know any different,” she said.

“When I went down and watched the Melbourne versus Bulldogs game at Whitten Oval I realised I was missing being out there.”

Now like her cousin, Jason Saddington who ended his AFL career at Carlton, Hardiman has also been picked up by the mighty Blues.

Hardiman was singled out by assistant coach Scott Gowans after the Blues’ opening game against Collingwood for her incredible work in the backline, with her rebounding from the back back 50 particularly pleasing.

Hardiman is hoping to continue her strong defensive form when the Blues take on the Giants on Saturday at Ikon Park.

“We’ll keep training hard. They could be the best team, we don't know. We took every quarter (on Friday) like the scoreboard was still 0-0 so we’ll do that again with GWS and come out strongly.”