Ham ticks off goal with “nice surprise”

THOUGH it was a goal for her top-age year, Montana Ham said being invited into the AFL Women’s Academy was a “nice surprise”. Not having any inclination as to whether or not she had made it after a couple of strong seasons at the Western Jets, Ham said it was an honour to be named amongst the top players in the 2022 AFL Women’s Draft crop.

“It was a very nice surprise. It was obviously what I was hoping for, but there’s no guarantees with footy, so I just tried my hardest and I was lucky enough to get selected, so I’m just really happy,” she said.

Named alongside her in the Academy was Jets teammate and close friend Charlotte Baskaran, which Ham said was “really amazing for us both”, having entered the system as Under 15s back in 2019. After catching the eye that season, they had a 2020 season cut short, and then managed to get out a full 2021 year in the NAB League Girls.

Unfortunately the national carnival could not fully go ahead, but in the end every side except Queensland got multiple games in. For Ham though, she was not able to travel to take on Queensland, but still picked up with a couple of games against Vic Country and Western Australia in the Under 19s squad.

“That was amazing,” Ham said. “Getting to play with the older girls, the bigger bodies and getting to learn from them and drawing as much as I could from them and how they play and putting it into my style of the game, it really helped me progress my footy.”

Unsurprisingly, with the AFL Women’s Academy invitation came the Vic Metro hub inclusion. Ham was able to partake in the camp alongside the best Metro players across the six metropolitan NAB League Girls sides, which was another “amazing” experience.

“Getting to learn from all different types of coaches, and playing with those higher level players has really helped my game progress to the next level,” Ham said. “I reckon we all bonded really well down there. “We were just all one big group and one big family, we all got around each other.”

Ham has become known for her contested work, both in the air and at ground level. That attitude and ability, coupled with her clearance work is what makes her such a damaging player. Though she has plenty of strengths that catch the eye, Ham said she was still looking to improve her endurance and contest-to-contest running.

After starting her career as a forward and naturally progressing through to the midfield, Ham said she did not mind what split she played between the two areas.

“Probably midfield-forward it’s up to the coaches where they put me really,” Ham said. “But I’m looking to improve in both areas of my game, so wherever I get to play would be amazing.”

As for her short-term and long-term goals, Ham is keeping level-headed and wanting to improve each week to land on an AFL Women’s list.

“Some short-term goals obviously week to week just keep progressing,” she said. “I’m looking to improve on my left side of my body as well. “My big goal this year is to be drafted, so I’ll do everything I can to make that goal happen.”

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