It’s not every day a young football player achieves their dream of joining the largest football club in the country, let alone doing it with one of their close friends.
For Monbulk Football Netball Club’s Laura McClelland and Emma Horne, that was their reality on 22 October.
The pair were selected by Richmond in this year’s AFLW draft with Laura going at pick 25 and Emma at pick 73.
Not only is Monbulk both girls’ local club but they also played at Eastern Ranges together for the past three years and grew up together.
“It’s pretty insane, I don’t think we’ve quite realised how cool it’s going to be, especially until we actually get down there and start training,” Emma said.
“Considering we were really close friends in primary school and we used to play footy on the oval at lunchtimes.
“To end up here, it’s never something I thought would happen but I’m so glad it has.”
Left-footer Laura is known for her aerial work and is the Eastern Ranges captain.
She started playing in the boy’s team at Monbulk when she was nine years old and stayed until she was 14.
At the time, the club didn’t have a women’s side so she relocated to Ferntree Gully before being picked up by Eastern Ranges.
She also played for Vic Metro this year and earned All Australian honours.
Laura said being selected by the team she supports still hasn’t sunk in.
“It’s still pretty surreal for me but it’s getting there, I’m starting to take it all in,” she said.
“It means the world, you’re living your dream. You get to do something you love and for a club I’ve loved since I was little.”
Emma, on the other hand, didn’t start playing football until she was 15 years old.
As someone who always kicked the football around when she was young, she finally joined a team when Eastern Ranges started its women’s program in 2015.
She said it means a lot to finally reach the ultimate pinnacle of women’s football.
“It’s really fulfilling, especially because the women’s competition wasn’t even a thing when I was a kid,” Emma said.
“When I started being interested in footy it was all about the boys.
“It’s such a privilege to be playing for the Tigers next year and I’m so excited to get started and get around the girls.”
Jo Rutherford is Monbulk Junior Football Club’s under-14 women’s coach and is the Eastern Ranges Futures and development coach.
Having seen the girls play throughout their junior years, Jo said their work ethic and commitment to the sport has been key to their success.
“They’ve always just loved doing what they do, but they’re both very humble girls,” she said.
“They just purely want to play team-orientated football and they want to be part of a good environment.”
Jo said the girls’ success will help inspire others throughout Monbulk Football Club and the local community.
“There are pathways now for the girls,” she said.
“Beforehand it really wasn’t, before we felt like you weren’t really looked at in this area. Now they (recruiters) look everywhere, so it’s fantastic.