Carlton a “second home” for McKay

A BLUEBAGGER at heart, it should come as no surprise that Sophie McKay is looking forward to what the future holds as she eyes off following her sister Abbie to the Blues this year under the father-daughter rule. The talented Sandringham Dragons midfielder/forward is eligible to don the Navy Blue in the same way as her sister, after her dad Andrew played 244 games for the club for more than a decade.

While most father-daughter prospects might draw comparisons to their father, next McKay in line sees more differences in their gamestyles.

“I think I’m very different to my dad. I probably couldn’t think of being anything worse than being a backman,” McKay joked. “One of my biggest areas of improvement is two-way running, so I should probably expose myself to the backline a bit more this year.”

Likewise, while both her and sister Abbie followed the same pathway at the Sandringham Dragons, McKay plays a more explosive midfield role compared to her older sister’s first possession contest-heavy play.

“Abs is very an inside midfield, very in and under, gets the hands out,” McKay said. “Whereas I’m the one that receives and breaks from congestion and runs with it. She’s very physical, and that’s what I also look up to her for, I’d love to be as strong as her, hopefully one day I’ll get there but I don’t think I will she’s very, very strong. But we are very, very different on and off-field, we balance it out.”

McKay has fond memories as a child of growing up around the club, with her father the Head of Football during her formative years. Though he departed the official role in 2018, the family always has strong ties with the Blues.

“I was lucky enough when dad was working and I was sick for school, I’d go into the club and just sit in his office, so it was definitely a second home for me for a long time before he moved on,” McKay said. “Even now just being so close with the club and close with all the club and all the girls, and just having the ability to use all the facilities and resources is so good.”

Naturally pressure comes with inheriting a family legacy, and while McKay said there might be that external pressure on her, she has never been too worried about what it means, with more focus on Abbie being the first father-daughter to be drafted from the family.

“Growing up it was good, a little bit pressure but Abs was very late,” McKay said. “She played two years of footy and got drafted, but I’ve been playing for 14 years so it’s a bit different. I’ve always wanted to play football, never not. It’s just normal I guess just having that, I don’t really think about it.”

McKay said she has thought about fitting into the midfield at the Blues, but admits with her sister, Mimi Hill and Keeley Sherar in there, she understands a forward role might be where she begins her career.

“I love to hit the scoreboard and I think I have a good goal sense,” McKay said. “I can maybe shuffle in there for a while, but the dream is to play with Abs in the midfield.”

Like many aspiring footballers, McKay looks up to Monique Conti for her speed and physicality, areas of McKay’s game she prides herself on, particularly the former.

“I think i’m good at breaking free from congestion, and I’d like to think I’m fast,” McKay said. “Driving my legs is probably my main one. But my aerobic capacity I think that’s my number one and two-way running is I get stuck ball watching a bit, so getting to every contest is my biggest goal.”

McKay’s preseason including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, which was a pretty good excuse to miss preseason. However upon return she got to attend the AFL Women’s Academy camp, before the Vic Metro hub one.

Unfortunately for the talented utility, she pulled her hamstring on day one of the Metro camp, missed the first four weeks of the preseason and then just as she returned to training, caught Covid and had another setback.

Incredibly those bumps in the road meant McKay had a much shorter preseason, but it has not limited her, starting the year with hauls of 17 and 16 disposals in her first two games, before stepping up against the Giants Academy, booting two goals from 31 touches in a losing side. Those games along with her impressive AFLW Academy showing – where she had 18 disposals and booted 3.2 – have held her in good stead approaching the national championships in a couple of months.

While being drafted to the Blues is McKay’s ultimate dream, she has also set herself a number of goals to tick off this year.

“Number one is just to enjoy it, really take it in,” McKay said. “It’s a big year. Also my aerobic power, just really wanting to get a big engine to work off and just turn up and play good footy I reckon.”

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