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Maddison Gay: From netball to football

Lucie Jamison, Carlton Media  March 19, 2018 1:59 PM

Membership Episode 1 | Hughesy's Family Problem head to to #claimyashame

Maddison Gay is one of Carlton’s emerging key AFLW players.

The midfielder, who has recently featured in Carlton’s backline, was named in the team’s best in rounds three, four and five. Those numbers represent three of Carlton’s four losses. That could be a coincidence, or it could be the case that Gay steps up in the face of adversity.

“I think I stepped up when Bri (captain Brianna Davey) went down in Round 2. It’s bad when there’s an injury, but when she wasn’t around at St Kilda Sharks I found myself doing it as well,” Gay said.

“I just do my best for the team and whatever I have to do, I’ll try 100 per cent,” she said.

Amazingly, Gay only picked up the sport last year.

“I may have just started when I was drafted. I played two practice games and they picked me up as a rookie which was really fortunate for me. Then I played all of last season out and now I’m here at the Blues,” Gay said.

"I didn’t know what to expect coming in. I watched a few games at Footscray last year and thought it was amazing what the girls were doing, so obviously so you want to be a part of it.

Mad Gay Feature Image 1
Maddison Gay in her debut game for the Game Changers, Round 1 2018. (Photo: AFL Photos)

"Coming in the second season it has been awesome. I'm enjoying the experience that I'm a part of.

"Even watching all the other clubs is amazing. The older girls, how well they’re going, like Courtney Gum and Tegan Cunningham. It doesn’t matter really what age you are, it shows how strong women are.

"The season's been really good. I look forward to next year."

Less surprisingly, Gay has played sport at an elite level before.

She previously played in the VNL (Victorian Netball League), with Ballarat Pride and Melbourne University Lightning.

Playing competitive netball has helped Gay in her transition into football.

“I find that the agility work helps a lot being a netballer but also the peripheral vision,” Gay said.

“With netball you kind of have to see the whole court when you’re passing, so with football I try to open my vision up and see the whole footy field even though it’s a bit bigger than a netball court. Netball has helped immensely.

"Playing netball at the VNL (Victorian Netball League) level also helped me move across to the AFLW level. It made me relax a bit more because I obviously wanted to play AFLW, and having that secured at the start of the season made me relax and made me enjoy the football and sport more, so it was good."

Gay references netball when describing her performance on the football field. Regarding her move to the backline during the second half of last week’s match, she said: “Being a netballer, I just took myself as a wing defence and tried to play that role Damo (coach Damien Keeping) wanted me to.”

“But with having to adapt to that, I thought I did alright, but there’s things to improve on as well,” she said.

While Gay never formally took up the sport until last year, her ability to play the game might have sat dormant within the 21-year-old throughout the years. She grew up watching her brothers play at junior and senior levels in Sunbury and would have a kick with her dad every quarter and half-time. And while she often draws on her netballing knowledge on the football field, the path to footy was the right one, according to Gay.

Footy is the right choice.

“I’m happy where I am at the moment," Gay said.

“Having played netball for 12 or so years, I kind of lost that passion for it. I wasn’t as excited as I should have been going to training, seeing my friends and stuff like that.

“That’s what I needed: a change. But I also thank netball as I made so many good friends.

“Who knows? I might go back in the future, but right now I think footy is the right choice.”

Gay laughs as she admits she grew up as an Essendon supporter. She jokes that the family “weren’t too stoked” when she was drafted to Carlton.

“They were just happy for me to go anywhere,” she said.

“Now that I’m there, it’s just such a great club to be a part of. The boys are great, they’re involved, and they love hearing everything about us. The whole club is great.”

Gay has looked to her teammates for leadership in her debut season with the Game Changers.

“I’ve observed the older girls like Alison Downie, Shae Audley, Katie Loynes,” she said.

“I’ve watched them and they’ve helped me so much this year. I feel like I’ve changed as a person as well with having them around, I see them all as leaders even though they may not be officially.”

Over the past few months, she has been able to take a big leap forward with her football ability.

"I've learnt so much - just getting used to the structure of the game, and where to stand and all of that - it’s a bit different to netball," she said.

"At St Kilda Sharks they obviously taught us everything we needed to know but then, jumping across to Carlton, I’ve taken a massive step to the extreme.

"Carlton has helped me. I’ve learnt so much."

Mad Gay Feature Image 2
Maddison Gay has played six games for the Game Changers in her first season. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Unfortunately, Carlton’s second season hasn’t been full of success, but Gay says there are positives to take away from the season.

"Losing four games in a row isn’t what a club or a team wants. But the sort of team we are and how close we are shows. The bond we have is incredible, with only a couple of months of training together, it feels like we’ve been there a couple of years," Gay said.

"But with losing you learn and then you take that forward and bring it to the next game, and then the next game.

"And that’s what we’ve been doing: taking out the positives and then taking out the negatives and what we can work on.

"It's made our team so much stronger."

Gay is young, and the versatile player has no reason to dream small when it comes to her footballing career. But for now, the focus is improving her game, she said.

"My major goal is to play in a grand final, but right now I’m still learning the game and taking in everything I can, from coaches, players, even family outside watching.

"I get tips every time before and after a game, so right now as a player I’m just taking everything on and just playing to the best of my ability."

Outside of football, Gay works as a Patient Services Assistant at Melbourne Private Hospital and casually as a sports trainer with Carlton's AFL players. Apart from work and football, she is a fan of brunch.

"I do love my brunches and stuff like that, just the normal stuff, going out with friends," she said.