HAWTHORN officially named Eastern Ranges star midfielder Laura Stone as one of three pre-listed players yesterday, with the top-ager joining teammates Jess Vukic and Hayley McLaughlin in the brown and gold. We spoke to all three players at the AFLW Draft Combine, and in a special Hawk series we will take a look into their journeys and aspirations, starting with Stone.
LAURA STONE Q&A:
Q: Laura, you just completed your Combine testing and posted the second fastest ever 20m sprint at 3.08-seconds, you must be happy with that?
Laura Stone: “Yeah pretty happy. I was not sure what I’d get but I’ll take that definitely.”
Q: Have you felt you’ve improved in that area even more so than in the preseason?
LS: “I’d say so. It’s definitely something I’ve wanted to focus on and improve on even though it is one of my strengths. But I can take it to another level. I definitely think I’ve improved a lot in that and hope I can improve more.”
Q: This year you had more midfield time through the season really elevating your game, how did you find 2023?
LS: “I had a few concussions throughout the whole year, so that really put me back a bit. But I definitely tried to improve the way I went into a contest. When I was on those breaks for like two weeks I was just able to focus on the fundamentals and definitely come back stronger.”
Q: Obviously Eastern Ranges had a great year this year, what was it like making it all the way to the Grand Final?
LS: “It’s been a really good culture at Ranges, we’ve had really strong mindset. Ash (Close, senior coach) has really enforced that ‘just be winners all the time’ and not really focus on how the other team plays, just focus on what we can do and our strengths. Not to be outcome driven but to be process driven and just focus on the result and it can really give us the success we wanted to.”
Q: You also got to play for Australia on Marvel Stadium, what was that like?
LS: “It was unreal, the professionalism and all the things we’ve learnt throughout that whole camp as well. Just the whole experience, it was just unreal to be a part of, playing obviously on Marvel Stadium with such a talented group of girls, the opposition as well. It was an unreal experience, very grateful.”
Q: You only played two games at the national carnival but came away with the Vic Metro Best and Fairest, how was that?
LS: “I wasn’t really expecting it to be honest. I was pretty happy with how I played throughout the whole carnival. I just tried to focus on game by game and not to get too in my head about it, but I was pretty happy about it.”
Q: You’ve got the AFLW Draft coming up, but also have your Year 12 studies, what’s it like juggling those priorities?
LS: “It’s been a bit difficult, but having football as well as school really helps with all my marks, just having that balance and then go to footy training and have that as a release and just take your mind off school for a bit. Then go home and it just feels good to study, I found it really helpful, honestly.”
Q: What AFL/AFLW club do you support?
Q: You must be pretty happy then (with the 2023 AFL Premiership)?
LS: “Yes very happy, can’t complain.”
Q: Speaking of AFL/W clubs, Eastern Ranges have the ties with Hawthorn, what’s it been like, how much involvement have you had with them?
LS: “I’ve gone down to train with them a bit just get a feel for what it’s like at an AFLW club especially with them just because we’ve got that link with them. It’s been really helpful especially during our Coates break, I’ve been able to go there for a bit, so that’s been really good and really helped with my development.”
Q: From here (Draft Combine) leading up to the AFLW Draft, what’s the plan footy wise?
LS: “I just want to try and focus on school for a bit and then obviously hopefully get drafted at the end of the year and just work towards that really and see where it takes me.”
Q: What improvements do you want to focus on first over the off-season?
LS: “I’d just say my endurance is something I really want to build, knowing that I have that speed but also the repeat efforts, repeat sprint efforts is something I want to focus on especially I want to focus on coming into the midfield this season. It’s something I’ve noticed I can definitely improve on, and just focusing on my fundamentals like kicking and everything making sure I’m all good with that.”