Drafted on a Tuesday, back to school on a Wednesday.

In many ways, having to go back to the daily school grind after making it onto an AFLW list seems quite unceremonious, but that was the simple reality for draftee Ash Richards

The 18-year-old peninsula local, taken at pick No. 12 in July’s AFL Women’s Draft, barely had time to celebrate – let alone soak it all in – as she was immediately thrown back into the chaos of Year 12, only now as an AFLW player. 

Keeping focus ahead of the daunting Year 12 exam block is always a challenge, but add in the fact that the unofficial AFLW pre-season was already in full swing and the 2022 Season was just a few short months away… well, it was tricky to keep the head in the books.   

“It was definitely interesting first coming back to school when I just got drafted. We’d just come back out of lockdown and my friends were all really excited,” Richards told saints.com.au.

“It was a bit hard to juggle it at first. I wanted to come to footy all the time and I didn’t want to stay home and study, but I just had to get my head down for a few weeks.”

The forward/midfielder attended the bulk of training sessions throughout the pre-season under coach Nick Dal Santo before limiting her time at the club in the lead-up to her final exams.

Like fellow draftee and Vic Country teammate Ella Friend, Richards closed the book on her Year 12 studies early last week. Now, footy is the number one priority.

“Looking at socials and seeing all the girls training out there, I was just thinking ‘I just want to be there’,” Richards said.

“It was a little bit frustrating watching from the sidelines, but at the same time it was just as awesome knowing I was part of the team. I was just more excited to get out there than anything else.

“Now I can put my full energy in here. I feel like so much weight has lifted off my shoulders and I feel like I can put my head down and focus on footy. It couldn’t get any better, really.”

Richards is hoping to defer her university studies for early childhood education into 2023, making footy her main focus for 2022.  

Aussie Rules has always been a part of Richards' life coming from a passionate Cats family, but it was only four years ago when the ballet-trained dancer and long-time basketballer pulled on the boots for the first time.

I was always into basketball, but I just dropped that pretty much as soon as I played my first footy match. I was about 14 and the first AFLW season had started up just before that. I loved it, I just knew it was for me.

- Ash Richards

In just a few short weeks, however, the student-turned-Saint could potentially be lining up for St Kilda in its soon-to-be confirmed season opener.

"I'm just trying to find my place in the team at the moment and just give it my all," Richards said.

"I don't have really high expectations for myself. I just really want to play the best that I can and get as many games as I can."