“Catch it, Molly, catch it!”
They were the cries heard by a four-year-old Molly McDonald as her older brother, Liam, sent wave after wave of footballs flying towards her.
But for a young Molly, those moments of kick-to-kick with Liam were all it took to spark her love of the game.
“He was just drilling me with footys even if I couldn’t mark them, just going ‘catch them, Molly!’,” McDonald told saints.com.au.
“I’m thankful now for it.
“Since I was little, I always wanted to do AusKick and follow in his footsteps and everything.”
But bouts of backyard footy with Liam were as far the journey went as a junior.
Despite years of insistent nagging to play footy, her mum's answer was always no, leaving McDonald to pursue basketball instead.
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The budding athlete excelled on the court, working her way up to play in representative sides across a career that spanned almost 10 years.
But footy always lingered in the back of her mind, even with a blossoming career on the hardwood well and truly on the cards.
As McDonald worked her way up the ranks and the politics in basketball came more and more into play, the door for a code conversion started to creep ajar.
“I just wasn’t enjoying basketball like I used to, and I always wanted to play footy,” McDonald said.
“I’d always liked the idea of playing footy since I was little, but Mum never let me, so I finally convinced her to let me play if I quit basketball.”
That was all it took, and she happily pulled the pin on a decade-long basketball career to embark on her long-awaited football dream.
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From that point on, it’s only been upwards for the bayside local.
Her elite endurance, agility and damaging pace saw the Seaford Tiger catapult into the Dandenong Stingrays leadership group, before earning Victorian representative honours and a spot in the Women’s AFL National Academy.
Even though her progression up the ranks meant a place on an AFLW list was the next logical step, McDonald never really thought a crack at the big time was possible.
“Originally I didn’t think I’d make it to the AFLW, and I just wanted to play for fun,” McDonald said.
But the 18-year-old exceeded her own expectations, becoming the second player to join the red, white and black’s inaugural women’s side as a pre-signed selection.
And even with the No. 1 shaping up for an appearance in St Kilda’s ground-breaking debut match on Sunday 9 February, McDonald is still coming to grips as to how she’s on the Saints’ list.
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“At the moment it’s a bit surreal,” McDonald said.
“It honestly doesn’t feel real yet, but I just feel privileged to even get signed by the Saints.
“I feel very lucky to be here right now.”