Relieved Ifould basks in “surreal” AFLW Draft moment

THERE were a multitude of emotions running through South Adelaide winger Holly Ifould‘s brain as the 2023 AFL Women’s Draft continued to tick down. Sitting amongst her Panthers cohort, the talented winger had watched Brooke Boileau (Adelaide) and Alissa Brook (Port Adelaide) get drafted in the second round, and she, along with many others had celebrated their big moments.

But now, it was her turn. Ifould knew all eyes would turn to her as the next expectant draftee.

“Draft night was really good, we had all the South girls there, and Brooke and Alissa as well and my family and my friends,” Ifould said. “They got picked a bit earlier in the draft to me so after they got picked I got a bit nervous like ‘oh my gosh everyone’s waiting for me to get drafted now’.”

Having chatted to both Carlton and Sydney the confidently pre-draft, both clubs picks came and went as they opted to only select the two players. That left just one club that Ifould thought would draft her – Fremantle

“It was coming to the end of the draft and I was like ‘okay Freo’s coming up’ and then they called out my name and there was just that big relief and that moment where I’m like ‘oh my god have I actually done it? I’m on an AFLW list’,” Ifould said. “It was such a surreal moment.”

Monday, December 18 was already huge for the teenager, having received her ATAR earlier that day, but admitted she was looking forward to the night, with a nervous energy, but also excitement as part of the build up.

“It was definitely a lot of nervous feelings in the lead-up” Ifould said. “I think I would be the same for most girls. Because obviously nothing’s a guarantee going into it, you’ve just got to hope you’ve done the work.

“But also an element of excitement in there for sure because if something were to happen, you know you’ve achieved your goals and for me I didn’t even know where I’d be living next year. It was kind of some excitement in there, but nervous as well.”

Opting to nominate nationally for the draft, Ifould said she thought, and assessed the situation pragmatically, understanding there were other players who were likely to go ahead of her from the state such as Lauren Young and Piper Window.

“Being realistic I knew that they were going to be picked up by SA clubs first and so to provide myself with the best opportunity to get drafted I thought it was most appropriate to go national and I wasn’t afraid of the challenge of being moved to a different state,” Ifould said. “I’m keen for it actually. It’s all worked out good.”

The major turning point in Ifould’s top-age season was the South Australian State Academy taking on the SANFL Women’s Under 23 All-Stars. There, minus a host of stars from the national champions, Ifould stood up and won the best on ground medal for her performance.

“We knew we had all of our more dominant players out, so I took it upon myself this game I’ve got to really show what I can do when we don’t have our better players,” Ifould said. “Really got stuck into the contest I think a bit more which was good and got a bit more contested possessions and I think it was really good, I was really able to showcase some elements of my game that I hadn’t been able to quite before.”

Though she is yet to dive deep into her role at the Dockers, Ifould said she would likely play in her preferred wing role, though “wouldn’t be surprised” to also add elements of small forward and inside midfield to her repertoire. In the most recent preseason training, Ifould has been working on her tackling and contested work to continue building that aspect of her game.

Once arrived in Fremantle, Ifould said she is looking forward to learning off a host of Dockers who she respected highly.

“I really like Ange Stannett,” Ifould said. “Whenever I watch Fremantle, I really like watching her. She’s a gun player. As of recently, Ash Brazill I didn’t realise that they were going to take her either, she’s such a great player, such a great leader, definitely a strong player that I can take a lot of inspo off.

“I also like the likes of Emma O’Driscoll and Hayley (Miller) as well on the field. They’re such good leaders and such good players that I can’t wait to learn off and be inspired by.”

Though Ifould might be moving to a new state, Perth is hardly unfamiliar territory for the South Australian and her family.

“I was born over there,” Ifould said. “I only spent two years there so I was two when we moved to Adelaide so I don’t remember much but I think my parents lived over there for copious amounts of years and they think its such a nice city, very liveable like Adelaide.

“I won’t be too overstimulated by the city. It’s such a nice place when I did go over for nationals, I was just so taken and I’m keen to get over there. We have a lot of family friends and really close people that we have connected to our family over there as well.”

As for 2024, Ifould is focusing on improving all elements of her game, while hopefully closing in on a potential debut.

“I guess its pretty cliche to say I’d like to make my debut but honestly, rather than that I think just improving my game and probably improving my skill and strength and as well as my ability to use the left side of my body as well as my right,” Ifould said. “Left kicking and right kicking and all of that. Obviously I’d really like to make my debut, but with that comes a lot of hard work and earning my spot as well.”

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