K rock Football

Another debutant for Geelong

Laura Gardiner will make her AFLW debut for Geelong on Friday night. (Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)

GEELONG will unveil its fifth debutant in of the AFLW season when Laura Gardiner makes first appearance in the Hoops in Friday night’s Round 4 opener against St Kilda.

Gardiner joins fellow 2020 draftees Darcy Moloney, Olivia Barber and Steph Williams, as well as Nicole Garner, in being handed a debut.

The 18-year-old found out she would be taking on the Saints from coach Paul Hood and midfield assistant Dan Lowther following training on Wednesday night.

“It was pretty on-the-spot, and I was pretty surprised when they said it,” Gardiner, who will wear the No.18 jumper previously occupied by inaugural captain Mel Hickey, said.

“It actually didn’t sink in until a few minutes after, and I had to walk back into the room and keep a straight face.

“My friends kind of already knew. They were sitting there and smiling and putting their thumbs up or down.

“I was really excited.”

A Geelong West junior, Gardiner spent three seasons with the Geelong Falcons before being selected with pick No.20 in last year’s AFLW Draft.

She was part of the Cats’ squad for the practice match against Melbourne in mid-January and also featured in a VFLW practice match against North Melbourne on the morning of Round 1.

Gardiner, who is a cousin of Brisbane Lions defender Darcy Gardiner, was due to play in last week’s VFLW practice match against Port Melbourne before Victoria’s snap lockdown forced the match to be cancelled.

She thought not playing last week may have limited her chances of debuting.

“I was aiming to play good (in the practice match) and be up for selection,” Gardiner said.

“That’s why I was really rapt when I found out that, even though we didn’t get the chance to play, I still trained well and I’ve earned my position.”

The holder of the record for the most disposals in a NAB League Girls game with 38 in Round 1 last year, Gardiner will line-up on a wing for the Cats.

And she has been given some pretty simple instructions.

“I’ll be covering inside wing, and holding my position, and running my lanes,” Gardiner said.

Gardiner’s debut leaves Mia Skinner and Carly Remmos as the only members of the Cats’ 30-player list yet to make their first AFLW appearance.

Twitter: @tom_king79