Diamond Creek small forward Sophie Abbatangelo’s transition to football went more smoothly than she thought it would this year.
The 27-year-old quickly picked up the pace of the Swisse Wellness VFL Women’s competition after a career in ice hockey and inline hockey, in which she was an Australian and state representative.
Abbatangelo played in all but one match as the Creekers made the Grand Final this year. She booted 15 goals from 15 games – including two majors in the loss to Darebin in the decider – and was named in her team’s best players on four occasions.
vfl.com.au spoke to Abbatangelo at the recent NAB AFL Women’s Draft Combine at Etihad Stadium in the lead-up to the 2017 NAB AFL Women’s Draft on Wednesday October 18.
What strengths of yours have you been using to sell yourself to AFL Women’s clubs?
- My athleticism – I’m pretty quick for my age. Also, my fitness.
Do you think your age might count against you in the eyes of AFL Women’s clubs?
- At the start (of 2017) I thought it might, but then I thought that I’ve never played my best footy before. This is my first year and I’ve got so much to learn, so I’m just a fresh canvas and there’s so much a coach can give me. I’m hoping that’s a benefit. In three years’ time I could be playing my best footy if I get coached by the right people.
What parts of your game do you know you’ll need to work on if you’re drafted?
- Just structure – my positions and where to be and, as a small forward, my leading patterns and things like that. My kicking needs to improve too.
What was it like having to make the choice to pursue either football or hockey?
- It wasn’t too hard. There’s so much more opportunity in women’s footy now. I think I’ve been as far as I can go with hockey and that was because I loved the sport so much, but now that I’ve been introduced to footy I’m starting to really love it.
How would you assess your 2017 season?
- It’s been really challenging. I feel like I’ve been thrown in the deep end and I feel like I’ve had a really good season. Coming from (playing on) a hockey rink which is a lot smaller, I felt that I’ve been able to get in the right positions with footy and read the play a lot better than I thought I would. I got a little bit lost when I played on the wing or through the midfield at the start, but I just needed to focus on one position and get that right before I could move onto the next.
What expectations did you have for yourself at the start of the year?
- I wasn’t too sure how I would go. I’ve got two kids at home too, so it’s been hard to try and juggle that and footy. I thought I’d do everything I can, take it all in and see how I go. Lucky enough I got myself into a good team and made the VFL Women’s Grand Final.
Which VFL Women’s opponents caught your eye or were particularly difficult to play on this year?
- Daisy Pearce (Darebin) has had so many years of experience in footy. She’s intimidating to play on. For a beginner, everyone that plays AFL Women’s is intimidating.
Who do you think has had the biggest influence on your football recently?
- My coach (at Diamond Creek) Scott Gowans. He’s just been amazing. He’s really supportive and really encouraging. He’s just full of so much knowledge and I’m like a sponge.
Which of your teammates do you think should also be in draft contention?
- Reni Hicks, Ash Riddell and Chloe Molloy are here (at the Draft Combine) with me. Tanya Hetherington who’s our co-captain – like myself, she’s a little bit older. She has great leadership skills and she deserves to be up there too.
Who do you think will be pick no.1 at the NAB AFL Women’s Draft?
- I think Chloe Molloy She’s proven to be the best at VFL Women’s level.
THE FAST FIVE with Sophie Abbatangelo
What food could you not live without?
If you weren’t a full-time footballer in the future, what would be your dream job?
- I’ve always wanted to be a police officer.
What karaoke song would you sing to save your life?
- I can’t sing, so I don’t know! It’d have to be an oldie.
Which teammate would you want to be stranded on a desert island with and why?
- Brittany Grech – she’s one of my closest friends and she’s so funny.
Which teammate would you not want to be stranded on a desert island with and why?
- None of them!