A FIRST year to remember.

Lulu Beatty didn’t have the ideal start to her AFLW career, being placed on the inactive list in the 2023 pre-season due to a stress fracture of her tibia.

Not one to focus on the negatives, Beatty used this time to enhance her game knowledge, work on her skills, and get used to being in an elite environment.

“I feel it would be a bit different if I played the season and then got injured, and I would’ve known what it was like, but it was still such a cool experience for me because I’ve never been in such a high-level environment,” Beatty admitted.

“Everything was still new and exciting. It was still the best, even though I was injured and didn’t get to play.”

Regarding her injury recovery, the 20-year-old is progressing well, having played several games for the Carlton VFLW side this year – the same team she was drafted from – to challenge herself.

In her three games this season, Beatty not only got involved in the action but also had the opportunity to play alongside many of her AFLW teammates, an experience she hadn’t had before her injury.

"Round 1 was super exciting and fun. We just found a lot of the footy, played well as a team, and there were 11 AFLW players on the field, which was really exciting for me because I haven’t played with a lot of the girls," she said.

“When we played against Essendon, I got to play with a good chunk of the team, and that was really exciting because I got to play with players like Darcy, Mim, and Kez, who I hadn’t played with before. It was healing my inner child because it's something I’ve always wanted to do.”

“In Round 14, I got to play against Darebin, who I used to play for, and I got to play against people I know, so there was some cheeky banter on the field.

“It reminds me how much I love it and how much I want to play at the highest level.”

Following that, Beatty got to experience her second pre-season camp, where her group won a ‘homestead challenge’ that saw her experience the five-star resort treatment.

While her teammates endured the cold, Beatty and her fellow members of Gab Pound's mentor group enjoyed a restful night's sleep before engaging in team bonding activities and rigorous training sessions.

"My group was lucky enough to win the homestead, so me and Tahlia [Read] got a massive king bed, we’ve got a heater and fires," she said.

"The whole experience was a good balance between working really hard and having time where we could relax and do team bonding.

"I really enjoyed the night around the campfire. That was cute and wholesome, and it was beautiful where we were, with the stars."

As she continues to navigate life and her football career, Beatty found great value in the camp's focus on values, where she explored not just her own principles but also learned about what matters most to her teammates.

This understanding - and her ability to apply it within the Club - has solidified Beatty's sense of belonging at Carlton and heightened her determination on the field.

“We did a lot of work around what’s important to us as a team and what we really value as a team,” she said.

“All the pressure around footy, but we always want to value the fun, that’s important to me as well.

“I’ve learned over my career that when I’m enjoying footy, that’s when I’m playing my best, and camp really made me aware that everyone is feeling the same and they’re all doing it for the same reasons – we want to win as a team.”

As the 2024 AFLW season nears, the defender is eager for a potential debut and equally curious about the team's progress from last year.

Acknowledging that team success is the ultimate goal, the group aims to maximize the short season to perform at their best.

"I’m just so curious as to how we’ve gone this pre-season. We’ve put in so much work, and I’m really excited to see all that work out on the field and as a team," she said.

"Individually, I’d love to play, so hopefully I get some success personally on the field and get some games and develop my relationships."