FOR KEELEY Skepper, being drafted to an AFLW program has been a dream come true.
A football lover ever since she can remember, Skepper has always been obsessed with watching and playing Australian Rules Football.
Being selected with Carlton’s first pick (No.17) in the 2022 NAB AFL Women’s Draft, Skepper finally has achieved her goal.
“It’s amazing, it’s pretty surreal that I’m actually here. It’s been a long time coming since I’ve been playing footy for such a long time, so it’s pretty cool,” Skepper said.
“I’ve been playing since under-eights Auskick, so it’s been quite a while.”
With no elite women’s football league around when Skepper was young, the Bulldogs-supporting youngster was naturally interested when the women's exhibition matches between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs started being played in 2016.
Skepper was hopeful that it would lead to something bigger for women's football. Safe to say, it did.
“It was amazing. I was a Bulldogs supporter, so I used to watch the Bulldogs and Melbourne games but when I saw all the clubs starting to come in, it was so cool to know the opportunities were there,” she said.
“Now it’s getting bigger and bigger with all 18 teams now, it’s pretty cool.”
Skepper's status as an exciting player and talent was confirmed by Carlton's list management team on draft night, noting that they always had the youngster on their radar.
That was particularly after her NAB AFL Women's Under-18 Championships form which saw her crowned as Vic Country's MVP.
While having to try and prove herself at NAB League level, Skepper's primary focus is the success of the wider team at IKON Park.
“You play under 18s and you’re trying to prove yourself to get drafted, but now I think you’re playing with a team trying to win. It’s not just about improving, that’s not the whole deal: you’re also trying to win a premiership,” she said.
“I’m probably a really exciting player because I’m always up and about, I like to talk on the field as well, not even about footy sometimes.
“I think my left foot holds me against other players because it’s harder to guard and probably my footy IQ because I’ve played for a long time and I know the game pretty well.”
Standing at 163cm, Skepper isn't the biggest player but has had to rely on her football smarts, which has held her in good stead going up against bigger-bodied opposition midfielders.
“I think using the ball smart, that’s when you’ve got to use your footy IQ,” she said.
“Obviously you’re not going to take on someone like Lucy McEvoy on a ground ball so using your smarts, taking off fast, using my acceleration which I’m hoping to work on more in the coming seasons.”
Outside of footy, Skepper enjoys helping younger students in the classroom, hoping she can continue that work when she moves from Wodonga to Melbourne next year.
“I work with the year threes, so I just teach them Maths and English and helping the main teacher... they love my footy as well and I always get up for story time once a week, and they tell me how they’ve gone over the weekend,” she said.
Hopefully Skepper’s draft story show-and-tell gets a better reception than when she played her first VFLW game with Collingwood.
“It’s a good story time this time, hopefully they like the Blues: when I told them I played for Collingwood in VFLW, I got a few boos, so hopefully the Blues are up there.”