It’s easy to forget just how young the Fremantle Dockers are. With a third of the 2022 playing list under the age of 21, their on-field toughness and maturity belies their years. 20-year-old Bianca Webb is one of those young players whose age is only really exposed by her voice as she chats about life and footy.
Waking at 4:30am each day to head along to her carpentry apprenticeship, and on training days not getting home until after 9pm, Webb is putting every ounce of herself into reaching her goals at the Club and in life.
“The first few weeks were really hard,” Webb confesses, but there’s a familiar face backing her up on the job site. “I work alongside Kiara Bowers… She's like ‘if the boys pick on you, I have your back, just know that’. I was like, no one will mess with me anyway, they know you're around,” she laughs.
Her time on the footy field has done plenty to prepare Webb for the job site, though, citing some time playing on Freo teammate Gabby O’Sullivan at state level.
“Gabby's a real character, she talks and everything and just getting used to that banter. Because obviously AFLW has a fair bit so just being able to maintain that is good.”
Maintaining banter on field isn’t the only thing on Webb’s mind this preseason. Describing her keen desire ”to make the starting team, even if it's on the bench” and work her way into the midfield group, she has a plan of action. Quick hands, speed and spread are the focal points.
In the final round of the 2021 season, Webb was assigned a tough role by the coaching staff—running with five-time All Australian Emma Kearney for four quarters. Not only did she win a career-high 12 disposals in the one point loss, she learned some valuable lessons in the process. The first being to back herself in, knowing she can tangle with the best.
“I think just playing on someone as good as her who has been in the competition for a while and knows the game, just how well I played on her was just really positive for me. And it just allowed me to think ‘I can do it’,” Webb says buoyed.
Another key part of that day was absorbing the technical skill of her opponent, and incorporating that into her own game.
“Just the way she uses her body to push off and get the ball, and when she does that to get that two centimetres free. I took that back and did that in WAFLW and I found that it really works.”
But the high of that game didn’t last too long. The following week Webb and her teammates would fall to Melbourne in an elimination final in what she describes as her “worst game of AFLW”.
Playing on the only other five-time All Australian in the competition, Karen Paxman, Webb can pinpoint where she went wrong.
“I was so focused on her that I forgot to play my own game, so I just got caught up.”
But it is this awareness that is key to the young midfielder’s growth both as a player, and as a person.
Acknowledging missteps in a bid to learn from them and, ideally, avoid those missteps in the future. It also means she is chomping at the bit for another chance at the Demons.
Currently slated for round nine at Fremantle Oval, Webb has her eyes set firmly on the fixture for a chance at redemption.
But she is doing everything she can to achieve that redemption.
“This year for me, it's probably been the best build up, so I'm just excited to get out there and see if it's working.”
Webb isn’t the only Freo Docker who has hit the running track hard this preseason, with high performance coach Kate Starre putting them all through their paces throughout the winter in an effort to become the fittest team in the competition.
“We strive for that, just being able to play four consistent quarters is our goal. We’ve just been pushing through training sessions. They're hard, but they're good,” she chuckles, before describing a particular skills game at training that they all dread.
“It's just a lot of running. A lot and a lot of running. And Kate stands there with a smile on her face. But if Kate's happy, then everyone's happy.”
And all of this hard work and gruelling running sessions and 4:30am starts, it’s all designed to do one thing: get the Club its first premiership, women’s or men’s. That all starts in round one, where Webb is hoping to cause some chaos for the Crows.
“That would be a good way to start, wouldn’t it?”
Gemma Bastiani is the co-founder of Siren Sport, a collective of Australian women’s sports advocates, content creators and fans providing coverage to women's sport across the country. To read more of Gemma Bastiani's work, head here.