McNicol making mindset priority in 2023

IN just her second senior state league season, West Adelaide’s Grace McNicol had a taste of everything. She managed to crack into the Bloods’ South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s side, and also had the experience of training with the best young talents from across the state.

Though on paper she played just the five games – adding to her single game from 2021 – McNicol took plenty from the experience, as she did at State Academy training. Though ultimately missing out on making the final cut for the team that won the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, the now top-ager is back in the Academy and ready to take her chances.

I was in the younger one as well to start with and then the 18s one I trialed out but didn’t make the final cut,” McNicol said. “It was a good experience, I really enjoyed it, learning new stuff, being a part of a new team.”

McNicol’s football journey is not unlike others, beginning her career at local level and moving up through the ranks to participate in the talented junior programs and eventually land in the Westies’ senior squad.

“I started at club level, Edmondstown Football Club,” McNicol said. “Then I got through the Westies junior programs and then I got into State Under 15s. Did that and then got invited to the Port NGA squad for a year and then between that I was invited to play in the SANFL Women’s team at Westies.”

The West Adelaide onballer has a tough time cracking into a midfield group that was well stacked for contested ball-winning midfielders in 2022 despite finishing on the bottom of the ladder. Nonetheless, McNicol managed to squeeze in and showcased her strength and speed around the coalface. Rating her contested marking as one of her key advantages, McNicol said she is also happy to play on a wing or forward.

“I think I’m good at contested marking, I think I’ve got strong hands,” McNicol said. “Got a bit of speed I reckon. “I think my (improvements are) communication and my confidence and how I go about my mindset, I’d like to definitely build on that, get better at that.”

In terms of influences on her career, McNicol looks to her immediate family, who have had a love for football throughout her life.

“I think my brother and my dad, they played football growing up and I’ve always wanted to do the same and they’ve always helped me along the way,” McNicol said. “They taught me how to kick and they’ve been with me the whole journey, so definitely my parents and my brother.”

Looking at the AFL Women’s, McNicol said there were a couple of stars who she watched and hoped could emulate one day.

“I think just any of the AFLW girls, like Erin Phillips, Anne Hatchard, they’re all just amazing players and it would be great one day if I could ever be at a similar level to that,” she said.

Looking to 2023, McNicol is excited about the possibility of earning more game time for the Bloods and hopefully grabbing her chance with the State Academy. One area she has been working hard on over the off-season is her fitness.

“I want to try and make sure I’m always ready for a game and can last a whole game when I need to and just stay on top of the ball, keep up with the play, definitely fitness,” McNicol said.

West Adelaide hosts Glenelg at Hisense Stadium on Saturday February 18 from midday to kick off the Bloods’ 2023 SANFL Women’s season.

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