Australian Rules Football is in many ways a game of trends.
One-on-one contests; flooding; and zones, - they are but a few styles that have helped teams achieve the ultimate.
The latest trend centres around athletes playing specific roles. Modern coaching dictates that if players do one job right while adhering to stringent structures and systems, it will give teams the best opportunity to wear down their opponents and reign supreme when the final siren sounds.
It is a style of play that lends itself to the finely tuned professional footballer, who some consider more machine than human.
However, and fortunately, there is still a place in the game for those that play purely on instinct.
There is something exhilarating about watching the see-ball, get-ball; takes on every tackler, high flying footballer.
And that’s exactly what Imahra Cameron is.
West Coast’s first selection in the 2019 AFLW draft did it all in her debut AFLW season. She won plenty of the footy, laid some big hits and kicked one of the most memorable goals of the season.
At times Cameron made it look easy, but the Swan Districts product said her first year in the game’s premier women’s competition certainly didn’t feel like a walk in the park.
“The jump in intensity from the WAFLW to the AFLW is massive,” Cameron noted.
“The girls who play AFLW, they are living their dream, they’re professional and they just want it so much more.
“A lot of people playing in the WAFLW play for the enjoyment of the game, but when you jump up to the AFLW you can see the girls are playing to win and to win premierships. The intensity, the skill level and the amount of work that goes into preparing for games every week is a lot higher.”
Cameron conceded it took her some time to adjust to the extra work required to play at the highest level.
As is the case with most AFLW players, Cameron’s biggest challenge was striking the balance between her personal, professional and football commitments.
“I think managing my time and the commitment that is needed to compete at that level, especially with full time work, training loads and travel for away games, that was one of my biggest challenges this year,” a candid Cameron admitted.
“It just took a bit of time to adjust to the demands that were required. I developed a routine around work, training and also making time to have a personal life. I had to find a bit of time for myself, my family and my friends.
“It was all about finding that balance between football, work and my personal life.”
When it all clicked Cameron produced some eye-catching footy that helped her keep pace with the some of the team’s most experienced campaigners.
She averaged 13.7 disposals (third behind leadership duo Dana Hooker and Emma Swanson), and 2.5 marks per game (second only to Hooker) all while moving between midfield and forward roles.
While most would consider juggling two roles a burden, the 23-year-old said she enjoyed bouncing between the two positions throughout the year.
“At the start of the pre-season I mostly trained as a forward and then I was pushed into the midfield,” Cameron said.
“Funnily enough later in the year I found myself in the forward line again. I got a bit of different coaching from both Embers (midfield coach Andrew Embley) and (forwards coach) Michelle Cowan.
“They gave me different tips and strategies, but they mainly said just go out there and play on instinct, back yourself and eventually the structures and technical side of the game will come to you in time.
“Hearing that from the coaches freed me up. They just wanted me to go out and back myself. They said that’s why I was there and they knew I could play.”
As chuffed as she was with her performance this year, Cameron is already planning her attack on 2021.
She is hoping to use this off-season to bolster her tank and sharpen her skills so that she can have even more impact in West Coast’s second AFLW season.
“I was quite happy with my season given it was my first year in the AFLW,” Cameron said.
“I think I performed a bit better than I expected to, but now it’s about working on my fitness so that I’ll be able to run through the midfield and run out games better.
“I’ll also be looking to improve my goal kicking and skill development during the off-season.
“As a team I think we did some very good things on the field and off it this year. It was definitely a learning experience for a lot of us, especially given we had a lot of debutants in the team who had not played at such a high level before.
“We’ll know what to expect next year. We know that we have more experience and we can take what we learned and hopefully play better footy.”