Lifelong Richmond fan Hannah Burchell played all six games for the Tigers’ inaugural AFLW season earlier this year. JUSTIN FLYNN, also a lifelong Richmond tragic, chatted to the 25-year-old Ocean Grover about the season, the future and the abrupt end to the competition caused by COVID-19.
JF: What was it like to finally pull on the guernsey?
HB: It really was a season of pinch myself moments. Reflecting on it I think ‘how lucky am I to play at the club that I grew up barracking for?’ When I finish I will look back and think how lucky I was to play at Richmond.
JF: The season itself would have been tough. The side didn’t win a game. Given the volatile nature of us Richmond supporters, was there any criticism?
HB: In ways there was. You try not to see it but you do see social media. That’s a reality of life if you choose to expose yourself to that. There’s a lot of criticism and pressure but I only worry about the people I care about and the club.
I have a personal connection to Richmond growing up like yourself barracking for them. I just know what’s gone into building this team. Peggy O’Neale, Neil Balme and Brendon (Gale) have just put in so much work.
I felt sad for them because they have poured so much into this and they’ve wanted this for the club. To not get them a win was probably the pressure that mounted on us as a team. We wanted to win for each other but we wanted to win for the people who set it up for us.
JF: COVID-19 ended the season two games early. Did you have any idea that it was going to happen?
HB: I certainly wasn’t expecting it to end. When we had no crowd at the last game (against St Kilda), we were laughing about it because it was so strange, but the girls didn’t walk off thinking that would be it.
At the last training session we kind of knew but nobody wanted to say anything. It was a bit flattening really for Richmond’s season to end like that without a win.
JF: How did you assess your own season?
HB: It was a season I am proud of, coming off an injury at Geelong, playing one game and then getting delisted it hits your confidence a fair bit. I was rapt to play that round one game (in front of 15,337 at Ikon Park).
I’m happy I had some good games. The best was up on the Gold Coast. To get my hands on the footy boosted my confidence a lot.
Basically I just tried to play my role as well as I could. It’s hard to sum it up positively given the team didn’t win a game, but I’m happy back feeling confident in my own game.
JF: What’s the news on next season? Are you contracted?
HB: Not officially. We run off one-year contracts.
We’re training offsite and have been given programs. There is still an expectation even though we are limbo, we have to keep that base fitness.
JF: You said your best game was up on the Gold Coast. Are interstate trips fun?
HB: Fun is probably a stretch. It’s certainly no holiday. It’s hard because your usual routine is thrown out. It’s fun in ways because you get to hang out with the team in a way that you usually wouldn’t but it’s tiring. You get home pretty exhausted. I’d much prefer to play at home.
JF: Speaking of home, it was disappointing the side couldn’t play at Punt Road Oval.
HB: I was a firm believer that we could have and should have. We were disadvantaged in ways not paying at a home ground. I’d rather have 5000 people packed in that 7000 or 8000 diluted at Ikon. It’s a much better atmosphere. I would have loved to have played at Swinburne (Punt Rd). Just from a sentimental point of view. Imagine the Richmond faithful coming to Swinburne! They’d almost have to lock opposition supporters out.
But I wouldn’t take away that experience from round one. That’s the biggest crowd I have ever played in front of and maybe will ever play.
JF: Do you think the women’s game should open itself up for more criticism, as long as it’s done constructively? It seems like you can’t criticise without getting criticised yourself.
HB: I think you want that (criticism) because it means people care. Criticism is good because it builds competition and rivalry. That’s how the game grows. Richmond, Collingwood, Carlton have these rivalries. Criticism is great because it means people are invested in it.
JF: Do you ever just watch Monique Conti during a game and think ‘you are just on a different level’?
HB: She travels at a different speed. She is at double time, but she glides as well. She is an amazing player to watch and play with. It’s amazing to see the vision of her during the week. She is a star.
JF: Thanks for chatting Hannah. Hopefully we get to see you back on the field next season.
HB: Thanks. I still haven’t had a win and didn’t have one at Geelong either. Gotta sing that song out on the oval. I’d rather play and lose than not play at all. I just want to get back out there as soon as possible.