Eva emerges stronger from injury interrupted season

AFTER a Freiberg Infraction injury put a line through the majority of her 2022 season, talented Claremont top-ager Eva O’Donnell has bounced back stronger with an impressive 2023 to-date. The talented Tiger is averaging 11.2 disposals in the WAFL Women’s playing a mix of positions but primarily off a wing, where she uses her footy IQ, endurance and speed to great advantage.

“I just play like a utility player,” O’Donnell said. “I’m often moved around with endurance being one of my skills and I’ve been working on marking so I just want to see myself playing in a position where I can make an impact on the ball and the wing is really good for me. I like running and getting wide and the forward line getting a bit of speed.”

O’Donnell’s career is not too dissimilar to many coming through the pathway starting with Auskick and being able to play through – albeit starting with the boys, then moving onto girls footy – before injury struck. In what was meant to be her first season cracking into the WAFL Women’s, O’Donnell went down with the Freiberg Infraction injury and only managed to crack in for three Rogers Cup games late in the season.

After running out for Claremont in a preseason friendly against East Perth, O’Donnell earned her debut in Round 1 of this season against East Fremantle, and held her place in the side. Her best game came in Round 4 against Subiaco where she booted 3.2 from 20 disposals and eight marks in a breakthrough performance for the Tigers.

“That was awesome,” O’Donnell said of the performance. “I’m used to playing wing for the WAFL and then being put in the forwardline and had a bit of a go there. I feel like I really clicked that game and got a few inside shots. It was awesome, got around the team.”

O’Donnell listed her strengths as her footy IQ, groundballs and athletic profile, while she is building her confidence in utilising those athletic strengths to take the game on more. Her performances and natural talent earned her a place in the State Academy after having to watch from the sidelines last season.

“It’s been a really awesome experience,” O’Donnell said. “There’s a bunch of girls you see and play on the opposing teams and being able to play with them it’s just a great opportunity and make some friendships with girls you would typically go hard against on the field.”

The Fremantle supporter said while ideally she would remain in Western Australia, she was chasing a spot at the highest level and understood that it might mean relocating in order to achieve that.

“I’m trying to keep my options open at the moment, but I really love WA so playing for a WA team would be really great,” O’Donnell said. “I’m definitely open to looking at the other clubs for that AFLW experience.”

As a youngster growing up, one of her most fondest memories was meeting a talented West Australian player who would eventually move east to take up an AFL Women’s opportunity with the Crows, and go on to captain them to multiple flags in Chelsea Randall.

“I actually met her before she moved across to South Australia,” O’Donnell said. “She’s an awesome player, leadership is just absolutely amazing and I aspire to play like her. It was a great experience to meet someone who was able to get drafted into the inaugural year and now obviously multi-premiership player, so it’s just awesome to see the pathway and what can come out of WA football.”

Looking towards the rest of the 2023 season, O’Donnell is just looking to “have fun”, as well as gain skills in the process to make her as prepared for the next level as possible.

“I gained quite a lot of leadership skills when I was injured because I took on a coaching role for Rogers so I want to put that onto the field,” O’Donnell said.

“I think for the WAFL recently, it’s been something I’ve been working on, trying to direct the girls because I’ve been playing for so long, my football IQ is another one of my strengths. I just want to help out the other girls and communicate and help the team get where we need to go.”

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