Academy experience helps Williams develop

VIC Metro Under 16s representative Lara Williams donned the ‘Big V’ last week in Shepparton where her side defeated Vic Country by two points in a thriller. A member of the Rookie Me Academy, Williams moved through the pathways from interleague to state, while also having the opportunity to train with the Eastern Ranges Under 18s squad.

Williams’ journey all began in the Eastern Region Girls Football League, where like many, she began moving through the pathways early on.

“I started when I was nine at South Belgrave Lysterfield and then didn’t make interleague the first year, then worked hard, and made it the second year and ended up winning a best-on,” Williams said. “Then (Eastern) Ranges came from it and Vic Metro obviously. I was emergency for the Adelaide game which was a bit sad, but happy I got to play today.”

Zoned to the Eastern Ranges for the Talent League competition, Williams put her hand up to trial for Vic Metro Under 16s, with the 2008-born midfielder making the squad. She described it as a “nice pat on the back” in recognising the hard work she had been putting in to reach that point.

Outside of her local and representative duties, Williams has also been developing her craft alongside other talented teenagers in the Rookie Me Academy. A school holiday football program designed for players aged 9-19, the Academy aims to support each stage of a player’s development.

Describing her experience in the Rookie Me Academy as “so fun”, Williams said she followed her cousin into the program.

“It’s been so fun, I look forward to those two days every holidays,” she said.

As for how the Academy has helped her develop, Williams said getting ahead of the game in terms of testing elements, as well as going above and beyond in their analysis of the game was really beneficial.

“I think just exposure to different things you wouldn’t get at club level or even regional level. Like you watch vision and you sit down and speak to people who have been through it all. Then you get all the testing which has helped me be prepared for when I do testing days, so just exposure to those different things.”

>> More information on the Rookie Me Academy

As for her on-field game, Williams described her long kick and run and carry as some of her strengths, while she is still working on being cleaner at ground level. Playing through the midfield at the AFLW Under 16s, Williams had 14 disposals, three marks, five tackles, one clearance, three inside 50s and two rebound 50s to provide some dash across the ground.

Though often at stoppages, Williams said she enjoyed the open spaces of the wing.

“I get put in the midfield all the time, but if I had to choose I’d pick the wing,” she said. “I just learnt that position first.”

Following her mother’s side of the family into barracking for St Kilda, Williams said she had a number of Saints players she followed and looked up to.

Marcus Windhager‘s my favourite player, but I probably look up to (Jack) Sinclair and (Jack) Steele the most,” Williams said.

In 2024, Williams said she was hoping to make her debut at the Ranges, but conceded it was a “bit of a long shot” given the strength of Eastern’s squad coming off last year’s grand final appearance and going 2-0 to start the Coates Talent League Girls season. However, she was not going to lose sight of that goal and would continue to put in the hours to achieve her goal.

“(I’ll) keep working hard and try and do it all again when it comes around,” Williams said. “I’ve been training (with Ranges’ Under 18s) for week and a bit now so that’s been really cool and fun.”

As for those who have had the most influence on her career, Williams said her parents for both pushing her, and taking her to trainings. There have been plenty of those, and the Eastern Ranges double bottom-ager is looking further to more big moments ahead in her career.

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