ELISE O’DEA is gaining more perspective on football since being the oldest player on the AFLW list.
Watching young talent come through the doors of IKON Park for the last two years, O’Dea is grateful that she continued playing AFLW and is now just enjoying the ride.
Pre-season kicked off over a month ago, and O’Dea notes that the players are starting to feel the results.
“Mentally and physically I’m definitely feeling the pinch, we’re working hard and we’ve now had a couple of pretty big blocks,” O’Dea said.
“In terms of overall excitement and energy, that's slowly building because you don’t want to peak too soon.”
O’Dea admits that she is happier than she has ever been playing football, and is unsure whether to attribute that to her age or to her newfound comfort at the Blues: either way, she is having a ball doing what she loves.
“I’m actually the happiest I’ve ever been in football I must admit, I don’t know if that’s to do with age,” she said.
“There’s something about Carlton that I don’t like to admit because I’m a Melbourne supporter at heart but I absolutely love the ‘Baggers: I love the people, it’s a family and I love the girls.
“They’re a terrific bunch and I’m loving it more than ever.”
O’Dea has found the lifestyle of football helping her in other areas of her life, with the access to the gym, education, psych programs and coaching always willing her to improve herself.
Despite being the Game Changers' senior head, O’Dea is still hungry to learn and can be found picking people’s brains all around the Club.
“I think everything is at a really high level so your body is getting checked regularly so you can’t help feeling good on the track and learning how to look after yourself,” she said.
“It’s just those little things that you learn, you can’t help but improve, you’re not getting injured, you’re staying on the track for longer and you’re working harder for longer.”
In her second year at the Blues, O’Dea is starting to take some ownership of the group, feeling like she is really settled.
One of her favourite parts about her veteran status is watching the younger girls around her succeed, knowing she helped pave the way for female athletes to play at this level.
“This year I feel settled and I definitely feel part of it: I've got some ownership and I want the program to succeed,” she said.
“I just want to do everything I can, I don’t want to have any regrets and I find as I’m getting older, I do get a lot of joy out of seeing the young girls and any of my teammates doing well, improving, and watching them enjoy training.
“It’s a serious sport and we want to win but it’s also this awesome game that we love and you should be enjoying yourself, even when you’re working hard.”