Pies “everything I could have ever imagined” for debutant Evans

TWELVE months ago, Imogen Evans was in lockdown, having to watch her Gold Coast Suns Academy teammates run around in Queensland, as the Northern Rivers resident was confined to New South Wales. Fast forward to last night, Evans swapped the backyard for Princes Park, and instead of her immediate family cheering her on, there were more than 4000 people in the stands watching her Collingwood Magpies steamroll the Blues in enemy territory.

“(It was) very exciting,” Evans said. “I was stoked to be out there and I think just getting the win in the end was just the icing on the cake.”

It has been a rough 12 months for Evans, who missed out on most of her bottom-age year of football, representing Queensland once at Port Melbourne early in 2021, then not playing a competitive match again until February 2022. She would play a leading role for both the Gold Coast Suns Academy and Queensland through the NAB League Girls and AFLW Under 18 Championships.

Despite a strong showing, Evans was unfortunately overlooked by the Suns in the AFL Women’s Draft. But pre-draft, Collingwood had shown interest in the Suns Academy captain who resembled a gamestyle not too dissimilar to the injured Brittany Bonnici. One thing lead to another, and the Magpies committed to Evans post-draft, swooping on her as a free agent. When asked whether she had always wanted to nominate Victoria, Evans said “definitely not” initially, but had no regrets.

“I think I always had my initial plan was to stay at home and stay local, but I’m forever grateful for this experience and I’m really stoked with the way how it did,” she said.

“It’s been everything I could have ever imagined. “The girls have been so welcoming and they’ve made the transition moving away from home super easy. “I’ve never felt alone or homesick or anything like that. I’ve missed my family obviously, but they’ve made the transition so seamless and I think that’s a tribute to how I played tonight.”

It is no surprise that Bonnici and fellow injured star Brianna Davey were among those who mentored Evans over the shortened preseason. The 18-year-old credited the pair – as well as the whole playing group with helping coach her and build up her knowledge bank against more experienced opponents.

“I think all the girls have given me a bit of everything,” Evans said. Definitely with the mids, Bri (Davey) has given me some super tips and same with Britta (Bonnici), she’s given me physicality tips, and getting myself in the game. Definitely all the girls get around me and tell me do this, do that, which is really good.”

Evans debuted in the famous number five for the black and whites, playing on-ball and resting forward, where she made history with a fantastic goal in the second term.

“Yeah loved that (goal), that was really nice and good to get the girls all around me and it really hyped me up for the rest of the game,” she said.

Though first game nerves are normal, Evans said she was “surprisingly okay” and that most of her “nervous energy” was aimed at building excitement for living out a lifelong dream. Despite being among the Pies’ best with eight disposals, seven tackles and a goal, Evans is not resting on her laurels with her season goals firmly in the front of her mind.

“I think just play the best footy I can and just put my best foot forward and set myself up for a long and lasting career,” Evans said.

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