Leitch overcomes injury to finish season strong

AN EARLY season injury did not deter West Australian Mylee Leitch from remaining in AFLW Draft contention, with the over-age forward piecing together a strong body of work. After cementing her spot as a dangerous hybrid forward in 2022 for East Fremantle, Leitch took her game to another level this year and was one of eight West Australian players who received a Draft Combine invitation.

Leitch’s season was delayed after breaking her wrist on the eve of the first AFLW Under 18 Championships match. Though she faced a few months on the sidelines, Leitch was determined to get back and play a role in the national carnival and East Fremantle’s finals campaign.

“I just want to play the footy that I can play, focused on getting back into the WAFL again, showing that the state people that I can be in the team and I should be there and then state just showing what I’ve got,” Leitch said of her 2023 goals.

The Fremantle fan was looking to use the national carnival as a springboard to put her name forward as a draft option. In the remaining two matches for her state, she averaged the nine touches, two marks and four tackles.

“It’s definitely amazing,” Leitch said of earning a place in the state squad. “I think having the opportunity to come back, having not played last year, taking a year off from State. I think it’s good, I think it will give me a chance to prove myself to the AFLW teams.”

Leitch’s journey started like so many others, as a young aspiring footballer who only really steered into the code thanks to a friend.

“I think it was about Year 8 one of my friends from school she was like ‘oh you should come down and tryout at the local club’ and I was like ‘oh year, why not give it a go’ I did that for two years, I did netball and footy for one year,” Leitch said.

“Then I moved on, had a good year at club and then I moved up to Metro and one of the coaches for the Metro development was like ‘come down to East Freo’ so I came down a couple of the girls got around me and it took off from there. Then got picked up for State two years ago and then pretty much WAFLW ever since.”

Putting a particular focus on her skills and running, Leitch credited her “big preseason” with marked improvement across the WAFL Women’s season. Though initially touted as a wing for the Sharks last season, Leitch’s work around goals saw a pivot in her League role.

“Last year I started on the wing so I was inside mid and then they pushed me out to the wing, played a couple of games,” Leitch said. “Then I kicked two goals in Round 2 last year and the coached was just like ‘we’ll just chuck you forward’ so ever since then I’ve been playing that high half-forward role.

“Push up and more so support the forwards and get the ball up. I guess you could say I’m also a midfielder, but I like to kick a few snags if I can.”

Leitch and her Shark teammates missed out on a flag last season after going undefeated up until the grand final before a heartbreaking loss to Claremont. Fast forward 12 months, and East Fremantle exacted its revenge, knocking off the previously undefeated Tigers in the 2023 decider.

“It definitely a good year, it was good to go 14-0 in the end, but the grand final definitely hit a lot of us hard and I think it just pushed us to want to be better to come back and be stronger this season,” Leitch said of 2022.

Adding a contested side to her game was a particular focus this year, and she showed it at the national carnival, running at 50 per cent contested from her two matches. The season is done and dusted, but Leitch still has one more box to tick off – the AFLW Draft Combine at Curtin University on October 15.

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