The 2022 NAB AFLW season has arrived and Mount Gambier young gun Brooke Tonon is in the thick of the action.
Back in July last year, Tonon was drafted at pick 20 by the Adelaide Crows and has been living the dream in the five months since.
Playing football at the highest level possible was “Chook’s” dream from the moment she played and eight years later she is a major part of the most successful club in AFLW history.
The season kicked off last weekend and the Crows were forced to reopen old scars in a Grand Final rematch against Brisbane.
Adelaide forgot about the pain of last year and sent a statement to the competition, smashing the Lions by 30 points.
Although rookie Tonon was not awarded a debut at the first opportunity, the former East Gambier star has loved every minute of being inside the Crows’ inner sanctum.
“It is awesome – the vibe is just amazing around the club,” she said.
“Beating the reigning premiers where they only scored a goal was a fantastic way to start the season.
“The intensity of training has been great and I am learning heaps, while the culture has been really good the entire time.”
Even when Tonon was first picked by the Crows to play at the highest level, she was told school was still the priority and could only train twice a week.
But since school has wrapped up, no one can keep “Chook” away from Football Park.
The youngster has completed every optional and non-negotiable training session as she tries to make the best impression possible.
Tonon anticipated a significant jump from SANFL to the top level, but she still found herself slightly overwhelmed at the beginning.
“I feel like my development has come a long way since it all started,” she said.
“The intensity at training has been something I have never experienced.
“Playing with and against so many players you looked up to in the internal trial game was really surreal.
“I love footy so I was so keen and I was expecting it, but not quite to the level it was which was awesome to see.”
However, Tonon said the supportive nature of the star-studded Crows team allowed her to overcome the little hurdle.
“It is great to be a part of a group that all has the same common goal and common interests.
“They all love the game as much as you do which makes it so much easier to train and enjoy everything at the same time because everyone wants to be there.”
Following the announcement of Tonon being drafted she circled fitness as one of her biggest areas of improvement and she has put in the time and effort in doing so.
“Preseason was all about my fitness and something that sets the Crows apart from other clubs is just the volume of drills,” she said.
“We do a fair bot of conditioning, but the amount of fitness we get in match-situation sessions I found really beneficial.
“I have also loved going to the gym throughout the week and the programs sent from elite coaches.
“It is always something you can work on but I feel the fittest I have ever been.”
Despite being an AFLW player, Tonon was not allowed inside the changerooms during the season opener due to the a number of tight COVID-19 protocols implemented to ensure the season gets under way.
All players are required to limit as much exposure as possible and be extra mindful given one case could bring the game into jeopardy.
Although Tonon missed out on selection for the opening round clash, she is far from concerned and has taken a level-headed approach.
After regular dialogue with coach and former Adelaide Crows player Matthew Clarke, the Limestone Coast teenager knows where she stands and faces another positional shift after adapting to a new defensive role at Glenelg.
Tonon said it is important to take enjoy everything comes with being in her role, so hopefully one day she can follow in the footsteps of Millicent debutante Olivia Fuller.
“We have had frequent chats and the coach gives every player a phone call before selection and he said I have had a good preseason,” she said.
“The coaches get us to train all different types of skills, but at the moment I have been given more of a forward focus, so back to the old position (after playing as a defender at Glenelg).
“But this is such a strong team to break into, but I will just keep focusing on development and learning which is the only way I can break in.
“With these opportunities you just have to be very grateful because so many girls would kill to be in your position.
“I just have to keep putting my best foot forward at every training and doing what you can off the field.
“My time will come.”