To a lot of people, the concept of playing at two AFL clubs at the same time is unheard of.
But to a number of Hawks’ VFLW players, it’s a reality.
One such player who juggles her time between two football homes is shut-down defender Pepa Randall.
The 23-year-old is in her second VFLW season at Hawthorn and is about to enter her third AFLW season at the GWS Giants.
Originally from Melbourne, Randall comes home for the winter to spend time with family and friends and therefore the opportunity to play at Hawthorn is a perfect fit.
“GWS don’t have an established competition, there isn’t one in Sydney, so it’s obviously really desirable for interstate players to come and play in Victoria over winter to be able to improve in a really elite competition,” said Randall.
“Although Hawthorn is another AFL club it doesn’t have the AFLW licence and in this scenario it’s a positive because it means there’s no conflict of interest for somebody who’s already currently signed with an AFLW side.”
Cooperation between the two clubs is vital. Coaches from both sides are regularly in contact to discuss Randall’s progress throughout the VFLW season.
“They (Hawthorn) have worked really hard to make sure that they can accommodate playing at multiple clubs and they’ve done that in plenty of different ways.
“Whether that’s working closely with an interstate player’s AFL club so that we continue to complete our off season training and giving us really good access to all the facilities so even though I’m not at the Giants over winter, I still pretty much feel like I’m still at an AFLW level and I still have the support around me that I need. “
Another positive Randall finds is the ability to learn off two different coaches across the year.
Returning to Hawthorn this season saw Randall reunited with head coach Paddy Hill.
“I was looking forward to having the opportunity to play under Paddy again.
“I think it’s quite a unique experience to have multiple coaches in a year as a footballer and to receive lots of different opinions and thoughts around how you can improve as a player.
“So I find that I go back to Giants really refreshed and have a new perspective of how to play footy and how I can improve and then consequently I’ll do the same when I come back from Giants.
“I receive some really different feedback and I think that just helps for a bit more of a rounded experience and becoming more of a rounded player.”
Despite not making it to finals this season with Hawthorn, Randall has taken some positives away from her second year at the Hawks.
“I think I improved in a lot of areas on the field because I wasn’t so stressed about performance and I guess those pressures that do come from an AFLW level.
“I just found simple things like my skill execution improved because I wasn’t trying to do something amazing and I found my decision making was a lot calmer and more precise.
“I also learnt a lot about how to disconnect from the game and training when I’m not there.
“It’s something I’ve been trying to do for a while and I’m sure many people have and it’s a lot harder than you think.”
Randall will now enjoy a break before heading back to Sydney in November for AFLW 4.0.