THE LOVE for the game began early for Katie Loynes.
While often referred to as the veteran of the team, it still seems like only yesterday that the lifelong Bluebagger was beginning her journey to the top level of the competition.
From playing footy alongside her friends in high school to eventually travelling over an hour and a half from Berwick to Diamond Creek just to play, Loynes worked hard for her opportunity to be drafted in the inaugural year of the AFLW competition.
While an ACL injury turned many clubs away, it was almost fate that Loynes’ beloved Blues gave her a chance to show what she was capable of.
After several meetings with then list manager Graham Burgen, Loynes was informed that she would be selected by the Blues.
However, the day wasn’t without its nerves as Loynes patiently waited for her name to be called.
“I was coming back from an ACL, so a lot of clubs actually didn’t want to take a risk on me,” Loynes said.
“I had done some kicking sessions with Graham Burgen and he had obviously felt comfortable about my knee.
“It was a long wait. I think I waited on the couch with Mum watching the draft for about two hours and then finally I was called, which was just amazing.
“I think I cried on the couch with Mum that day.”
From that moment, the tough midfielder worked to repay the faith put in her by the Carlton selectors, working hard on all areas of her game and leading by example on and off the field.
Loynes finished fourth in the Best and Fairest in her first year before going on to share the top spot in 2018 with teammate Breann Moody.
In a career full of highlights, this season arguably brought one of its greatest for Loynes after she was announced as co-captain alongside Kerryn Harrington.
The duo were voted in as the leaders of the team during the pre-season camp and have worked tirelessly to form a connection between themselves and the wider team to ensure that each player feels welcome as soon as they walk through the doors of Ikon Park.
“I love ‘Kez’,” she said of her co-captain.
“We just complement each other so well in terms of that role.
“I remember speaking to ‘Harf’ about it, saying I would really like to share it with ‘Kez’.
“This year was actually easy. I thought there would have been dramatic pressure, but we just worked so well together and it was really enjoyable.
“I honestly think that it was one of the most enjoyable seasons that I’ve had playing footy.”
If balancing being co-captain and a career as a teacher wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Loynes also spent the off-season working alongside Carlton’s former list manager Wayne Siekman, learning the ins and outs of recruitment and helping shape the 2020 list.
Using her school holiday breaks, Loynes spent much of the 2019 VFLW season watching games from the sidelines, reviewing vision and travelling around Australia to find the next crop of talent to slot into an already strong Carlton side.
In a year where the Blues welcomed the likes of Lucy McEvoy, Grace Egan and Mua Laloifi, it is fair to say that Loynes has earned a massive tick in the role she played.
“It’s well known that I’m getting a little bit older, so they did obviously restrict my [VFLW] game time which allowed me to go and watch other players,” she said.
“There was a lot of work, but I think what we were able to bring in this year was really awesome and obviously made such an impact on our list.”
While she may still be apprehensive about seeing ‘veteran’ next to her name, Loynes is realistic that her time in the competition may be coming to an end.
However, there is little doubt that the on-field warrior will leave the game the exactly the same way she came in: with pure determination, ruthless competitiveness and wearing her heart on her sleeve.
“In the first two seasons, I was just so thankful to be back out there playing footy that I played each tame like it was my last.
“Even going into next season, we’re not sure what it’s going to look like, but I suppose that’s what I’m going to do again because I know the end is near.
“I definitely will be playing each game next year like it’s my last.”