Mahony makes most of junior pathways

HAILING from a sheep farm on the outskirts of Beaufort, tall forward Claire Mahony became a sensation for the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels last season. In her first season in the program, slotted eight goals from 11 games and clunked 4.5 marks a match emphasising her strengths.

Since moving from Beaufort to Lake Wendouree in order to play in the Ballarat Football League, Mahony has seen a sharp rise in her performance. Playing both Under 16s and Under 18s in 2022, Mahony booted 12 goals in 17 games, named in the best 14 times to catch the eye of the Rebels, leading her to join the country region in the state’s central west.

“Had a few injuries during Covid, but after Covid wanted to shift into the Ballarat league so started playing for Lake Wendouree in the Under 16s girls there,” Mahony recalls of her recent years. “A few seasons were interrupted by Covid, and then in Year 10 really enjoyed playing for school, and then last year was lucky enough to be selected into the Rebels and it’s been a great experience, just love the people there and the culture that’s fostered, it’s brilliant.”

Mahony supports Carlton at the elite level, following in the footsteps of her Blues barracking father, but admits she also has a soft spot for Geelong – who her brother supports – as well as Sydney. Unfortunately her sister’s supported club of Richmond – showing a truely unique supporter base – did not make the shortlist.

The GWV Rebels tall said she “loves watching the footy” and it shows in her overall knowledge of the elite level and code as a whole. After a promising season as a marking forward, Mahony expects to be deployed in a similar way this year.

“I’ll imagine that I’ll be playing as a tall forward,” she said. “I think that’s where I’m most comfortable and confident. I’ve been playing there for the last few years. I’ve been trying to develop my game there and there’s definitely a lot to work on. But I’d also love to be able to be versatile and be able to go into the ruck or shift down back.”

It comes as no surprise that Mahony views her strengths as her marking – where she is undoubtedly one of the best in the Coates Talent League Girls competition and indeed the country – but is constantly looking to work on other areas of her game to be a threat in any situation.

“I think forward craft and leading patterns, a lot of that just kind of happens from anyone who watches footy, but a lot of it I’m trying to deliberately focus on,” Mahony said of her target areas. “And cleanliness at ground level and an ability to impact the game when the ball’s not in the air, because I’d say marking is probably one of my strengths, so I’d love to be able to be an impacting factor on the ground as well.”

Mahony takes inspiration from a lot of players at the top level, but singled out a couple who she particularly enjoys because of their gamestyles.

“I love watching Aishling Moloney from the Cats,” Mahony said. “Kind of a running versatile tall forward, she’s great. Then just Chloe Molloy, I think it’s just brilliant the way that she plays, it’s just so exciting and pretty inspirational as well.”

Helping out on her parents’ sheep farm while studying Year 12, Mahony is not fussed to which corner of the country she lands in this year’s AFLW Drat. While she loves being at home, the top-ager is also fascinated by travelling as much as she can and gaining new experiences.

“Would love to move into the city or move around the world or the country, but also love being at home on the farm,” Mahony said. “Absolutely (would be comfortable getting drafted interstate), I’d love the opportunity to travel and go place and live a different life.”

Mahony’s GWV Rebels kick off their campaign tomorrow evening against Geelong Falcons at GMHBA Stadium from 5pm in the standalone Easter weekend Coates Talent League Girls match.

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