Dashing defender darts to draft dream

ALTHOUGH much of the AFLW Draft chatter surrounding the Gold Coast Suns was surrounding their young Academy players, one draftee that flew under the radar was young defender Taya Oliver.

The 22-year-old is only new to the game, but made so much of an impact on the Suns that she was selected in last week’s draft.

Originally from Melbourne, it took Oliver a while to start playing Australian rules because there were no local junior clubs around her, so she did what many younger sisters of brothers did in those days and just hung around her brother’s club and kicked the footy with her dad.

It was not until she moved up to Queensland after facing the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic in Melbourne and was looking for a way to make friends that she utilised sport like she normally did, and joined her local side Coorparoo, which plays in the QAFLW.

Coming off the back of a strong QAFLW season and with the backing of a friend, she decided to nominate for the draft and she is certainly grateful she did.

Speaking last week, Oliver said it had not sunk in that she was an AFLW Player, even a few days after the draft had happened.

“Not really. It still kind of feels very surreal,” Oliver said. “I mean it’s only been a couple of days, I’ve been to the facility and I’ve seen everything. I’m just waiting for it to completely sink in.”

Although she thought there might be a chance the Suns would draft her, she was not 100 per cent certain.

“We had some talks with the club over the course of the last maybe month or so about what the possibilities might be and that kind of stuff, however coming into the draft it was very 50/50 on whether they were actually going to take me or not so it was a very nervewracking night,” Oliver said.

She was previously a train-on player with the Suns, so having that behind her helped eased the nerves about coming into the Suns full-time.

“It calms those nerves around coming into a new environment and not knowing anyone,” Oliver said. “A couple of the other girls that were here yesterday, they were Academy players so they’ve been around as well. We were all talking about the fact that the reason that it feels so natural and not as crazy as expected is because we’ve been around there and we kind of know people already.”

As a member of the Suns’ defence, Oliver is hoping to add an injection of run into the way they play.

“That’s a big question, their defence is very good from training with them and seeing them play and all that kind of stuff,” Oliver said. “I just hope I can bring something like a run off half back or just a little bit more speed, just through the backline and hopefully help out a little bit more.”

Although just working at Coles at the moment, Oliver is hoping to go back to university and do a degree in the sports science field.

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