Van Loon loves “team aspect” of footy

THE female footballing pathway has come a long way since Ashleigh Van Loon started Auskick as a kid. Now, the Geelong Falcons midfielder is right in the thick of it and thriving among some of the top talent Vic Country regions have to offer.

Having cut her teeth in the Falcons’ grand final making side last year, and earned Vic Country Under 17 selection, Van Loon is learning “what it takes” to cut it at the elite level through the talent pathway.

“It’s been really eye-opening to see the elite performance you need to be achieving to hopefully get drafted,” Van Loon said. “It opens you up to what it takes and what you need to be doing to get up there.

“It’s really impressive to see the female pathway developing now. “It’s getting more and more professional and it really opens you up to seeing young girls achieve what they want to achieve in footy.

“The Falcons have grown over the (last) four years, obviously we’ve had lots of different coaches throughout that time so it’s about getting to know each of them closely and developing your football.”

A tough and consistent inside ball winner, Van Loon is a midfielder who plays the team game in terms of defensive effort. She averaged an even eight tackles during last year’s NAB League season, listing it as her “favourite” strength, and that kind of two-way application is rare at the junior level.

“I just love the team aspect,” she said. “Obviously in football everyone just gets around each other and I’m a really competitive person, I love that competitive side of footy.”

Van Loon’s 2021 campaign opened on Sunday in Geelong’s 49-point loss to Dandenong, with the 17-year-old unsurprisingly leading the tackle count. She made strides on a couple of key improvement areas during preseason, and hopes to work on her “flexibility” as a top-age prospect.

“I’ve been working really hard on my running over preseason,” she said. “I’m really trying to improve that going into 2022. Contested marking as well, being clean in the air – they’re my main focuses.

“I think the coaches might move me around a little bit. “Towards the end of last year I was getting mixed into the forwardline a little bit which is still new for me. “I’m open to improving in that area and just trying to work my flexibility to go across the ground.”

The Drysdale and St Mary’s junior can look forward to the possibility of bouncing back as a team this coming Saturday, as her Falcons take on Murray at Epsom Huntly Reserve.

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