Newly drafted AFLW players Holly Whitford and Darcy Guttridge returned home to Gippsland in the black and white of Collingwood last week to inspire the next generation of Latrobe Valley female footballers.
The Magpies women hit the training track at Ted Summerton Reserve on Friday for a test run ahead of their round five AFLW clash at the venue in March, before putting local schoolgirls through their paces in a community clinic.
As an avid junior footballer, Sale local Whitford was no stranger to footy camps, but said she was still coming to grips with her new role on the ball.
“I remember I went to men’s clinics and being that little kid and learning from the guys, and now I’m here and the kids are learning from me,” Whitford said.
“It’s a bit funny but I guess I’ll get used to it.”
Whitford was snapped up by Collingwood in this year’s rookie draft, following her Gippsland Power skipper and best friend Darcy Guttridge who went to the Pies at pick nine in the AFLW draft.
And locals won’t have to travel far to see the home-grown duo play, with Collingwood to host the Western Bulldogs in Moe on 4 March for a regular season game.
“I couldn’t believe it round five they said we were playing down in Gippsland, playing against the Doggies, so that was awesome,” Whitford said.
“The fact that we could come down and have an AFL game in Gippsland was just another pinch myself moment.”
There were plenty of familiar faces at Friday’s clinic for Guttridge, surrounded by Lavalla Catholic College schoolmates taking part.
The Vic Country and All Australian captain hoping to see them back on deck come round five next year.
“It’s exciting especially because we get to come play a game round five against Western Bulldogs it’s going to feel like I’m playing at home,” Guttridge said.
“I used to spend a lot of time playing netball on the back courts there in Moe so it’s going to be a bit different, I’ve played one game on this ground but it’ll be good to play another one.
“After the draft happened and the fixture came out I could say to my teachers at school ‘if you want to come watch round five it’s close to home’ so I think there’ll be a lot of support.”
Friday’s camp also marked the final chapter in Guttridge’s year-long football and VCE school juggling act, with the 18 year-old graduating from Lavalla Catholic College following the day’s activities.
The three day camp was the first of many Gippsland events to come for Collingwood, with the club bringing regular fixtures, pre-season games and community clinics to the region as part of the Latrobe Valley Authority’s sports and community initiative.
The Magpies will play the Western Bulldogs in round five of the AFLW season at Ted Summerton Reserve on 4 March, with a men’s JLT pre-season fixture to follow on 10 March.