Season 2020 was a whirlwind campaign for high-profile West Coast recruit Kellie Gibson.
Expectations were high when the 2017 AFLW premiership winning forward landed at the Eagles, but the club knew it would take Gibson some time to find her feet in the club’s inaugural women’s team.
Having established herself as one of the competition’s premier goalkickers during her time at Adelaide and Fremantle, most would have expected Gibson to be stationed in the attacking arc for the entirety of the season.
But with so few players with experience at the top level in the side, the 24-year-old was used to plug holes all across the ground, clocking shifts up forward, in the engine room, on the wing and even down back.
While she did not have the opportunity to settle in to a defined role in 2020, Gibson learned plenty from the experience and felt spending stints across all three lines would serve her well for the remainder of her AFLW career.
“I looked back on all my games from earlier this year recently and I played back, wing, midfield and forward,” Gibson said.
“It was a bit challenging at times to settle, find a good routine and find the footy. When I was playing forward we didn’t score too much or that often and I found when it did go down in the forward line I was rotating off. I guess my timing was a little off
“But I had some really good insight into the midfield role in particular and learned different things like positioning with my body that I can probably bank moving forward.
“It was tough, but I learned about different aspects of my game.”
As grateful as Gibson was to play a range of roles this year, she was looking forward to playing her preferred forward role in 2021.
And the Swan Districts product was also excited to work alongside several fresh faces who joined the club during the off-season.
In fact, Gibson felt the introduction of players like Andrea Gilmore and Shanae Davison; the return of Alicia Janz (who missed season 2020 due to a knee injury) and the continued development of multi-sport stars Grace Kelly and Mhicca Carter would intensify the competition for spots inside 50 next year.
“There’s a bit of a competitive vibe in the forward line now,” Gibson revealed.
“I was looking at our team list with ‘Davo’ (Davison) recently and I think the forwards list is the smallest list of all three lines, but we’ll still be battling for our position when the season rolls around.
“It’s going to be good because we’re going to have to compete for our spot. It’s going to be good to have some tall timber down there too with Janzy and Gilly.”
After failing to hit the scoreboard in 2020, Gibson’s objective for the upcoming season were predictably simple: To kick goals and have fun.
And she feels that is going to be achievable under the guidance of new senior coach Daniel Pratt, who Gibson said had brought several new ideas to the table ahead of the club's second AFLW dip.
"Pratty's awesome and so chill," Gibson said.
"LD (inaugural coach Luke Dwyer) really set our foundations strongly for us last season which put us in good stead for the year ahead and now Pratty’s come in and he’s more focusing on a different style of play.
"It’s a bit of a fresh take on football and we’re not colouring inside the lines at the moment."
Gibson is also eager to show the way for the club's emerging youngsters.
She might not be a member of West Coast's leadership group, but Gibson said that would not stop her from sharing the pearls of wisdom she’s accrued over five years in the AFLW system with her developing teammates.
“I’ve been in the system five years now – which makes me feel a little older – but hopefully I’ve got a wealth of knowledge that I can pass on to people like ‘Davo’, Mikayla Bowen or the other emerging players,” Gibson said.
“Just because I don’t have the official title of a leader doesn’t mean I can’t lead.
“I feel like I’ve been through tit all over the past five years and I’ve come out a better person and player as a result.
“Hopefully I can pass some wisdom on to the young girls and help them on their footy journey so we can have some success in the years to come.”