Laila Lappin’ up the “awesome” experiences

AFTER an extended preseason and a later start date, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels key position player Laila Lappin is excited about finally stepping out on the field when the Rebels take on Geelong Falcons tomorrow. The niece of Carlton and St Kilda goalsneak Matthew, Lappin is a member of the Vic Country hub and an AFLW Draft hopeful in her top-age year.

While her uncle has given her a few tips over her football journey, Lappin is blazing a trail through the AFLW Draft pathways of her own, and a couple of years ahead of cousin, Sunny Lappin. The pair may cross paths in Round 7 of the Coates Talent League when the Rebels take on Gold Coast Suns Academy, where the younger, Queensland-based Lappin resides.

“We were together at Christmas and we did a few training sessions, she’s going really well,” Lappin said of her cousin. “Still young though, she’s an ’07.”

On her own preseason, Lappin is ready to go and confident of the Rebels’ chances with a fit squad and working together well.

“It’s been awesome, just to have the longer preseason,” Lappin said. “I’m super keen for the year ahead, but the preseason’s been so good. The girls are looking really fit, and we’re working really well as a team.”

Though entrenched in football now, Lappin has achieved plenty as a basketballer, taking the court for Ballarat Miners in the Basketball Victoria pathways, as well as representing Vic Country. But with football now coming to the pointy end of her junior career, the talented tall has made a choice.

“I’m a basketballer, have been forever,” Lappin said. “Decided to take up footy about a year and a half ago and haven’t looked back.

“I’ve taken a step back from basketball this year just because I’m in Year 12 and it’s pretty hard to balance everything. At the moment, I’ll see where this year takes me, but always have basketball to go back to if I need to.”

Last season was Lappin’s first season of “proper footy” playing at a high level with the Rebels under coach David Loader. Now under new coach Sally Riley, Lappin is looking forward to having an even bigger impact, with a potential role change.

“I played mostly ruck last year, but I’d love to have a run switching between ruck and forward and maybe if I work on a few things, maybe get a run as an inside mid,” Lappin said.

“I think I use my body really well, and that’s been a skill I’ve been able to transfer from basketball. As a bigger player as well, to be able to beat my opposition through my power and using my body. Also my hand-eye coordination and the way I use the ball is a strength.”

A self-described “floater” in terms of the club she supports, Lappin said her heart belongs with North Melbourne, though she has soft spots for the Blues and Saints due to her uncle’s past. As for a player she moulds her game on, Lappin looks to a Gold Coast young gun and Tiger star for inspiration.

Charlie Rowbottom is one,” Lappin said. “She’s obviously not a ruck but she’s my size, she’s super size, contested beast really, she’s unreal. She’s probably the main one, and also Mon Conti. Completely different player to me, but the way she balances the two sports is really admirable because I couldn’t really handle it but she’s pro in both.”

Lappin is undecided as to where she might nominate just let, with Victoria and Queensland likely to be her preferred destinations, which may see her opt to lean towards a national draft nomination.

“I’d love to go anywhere, just to be able to get the opportunity to play anywhere,” Lappin said. “I love the sun. Up north, even out west or whatever, but I’ve got a fair bit of family up north, so I think on the Gold Coast would be awesome, but anywhere.”

GWV Rebels take on Geelong Falcons at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds tomorrow for Round 1 of the 2023 Coates Talent League season.

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