A lifelong Bombers supporter, Bonnie Toogood always aspired to be the first female to play in Essendon's men's team, but now she will make history by lining up in the inaugural women's team.
Moving across from the Western Bulldogs, Toogood was one of the first players to commit to the Bombers ahead of their induction into the AFLW, and admits it's surreal to say she plays for the club she's supported her entire life.
"It's a bit of a 'pinch yourself' moment if I'm honest. Growing up, I always thought I'd be the first girl to play with the boys and always dreamt that it would be in the Bombers' colours, but for it to actually be a reality is a pretty surreal moment for me," Toogood said.
"I've had so many moments over the past few weeks where I'm just being like, 'Wow, is this really happening?'.
"So I'm really excited about it and to be a part of the first women's team for the Essendon Football Club, that is a factor that I'm going to hold really close to my heart as well."
Bonnie's a Bomber through and through. pic.twitter.com/clGDg5dGhr— Essendon FCW (@essendonfcw) May 13, 2022
Toogood, 24, joins the Bombers with a wealth of experience and an impressive football resume, including an AFLW premiership, Rising Star nomination, leading goalkicker award for the Bulldogs and inclusion in the initial 2022 AFLW All-Australian squad.
2022 was a career-best season for the exciting forward, with Toogood kicking 10 goals, averaging 3.5 marks and 3.7 score involvements.
After meeting with the Bombers, Toogood said she was amazed by the women's program Essendon was building and the resources it had invested in for its AFLW program.
"What's really exciting with the conversations I've had with Natalie (AFLW head coach Natalie Wood), Georgia (AFLW player contract manager Georgia Harvey) and Josh (general manager of football Josh Mahoney) is that everyone seems so committed to the AFL Women's program," Toogood said.
"We're investing in resources, such as full-time coaches and support staff, to ensure we can come into this league raring to go, and developing a culture and team that is pushing for finals.
"Hearing a bit more about the club and how they operate, the environment, especially the culture at the club and then being a part of the culture that we're going to build into the women's program, all those factors became really intriguing to me and I'm really excited."
Since her debut season in 2018, Toogood has been a constant in the Bulldogs' line-up, playing 37 games across her five seasons.
When first touring the NEC Hangar, Toogood was blown away with the facilities on offer and the opportunities provided to all five programs at the Bombers.
"I've always heard great things about The Hangar but to actually see it with my own eyes, especially the indoor field and the gym, which is huge, was great," she said.
"Then obviously you've got the two fields, so plenty of space to practise your football, and I'm really excited to be able to use all aspects of it and especially the pool, I'm kind of keen to give that a whirl.
"To hear how all five programs are under the same umbrella was really awesome and it just highlighted that the culture at the Essendon Football Club was right up my alley."
Ultimately it was the opportunity to be a part of history when Essendon runs out for its first AFLW season that appealed to Toogood.
"Being a part of a brand new team and being a part of building a new culture, it's really cool and it was a bit of a factor in making the decision," she said.
"To be a part of history was a thing that I will forever be able to talk about and you know, if I have kids one day, to be able to sit down and be like, 'You know what, I played for the first women's team at the Essendon Football Club'.
"It's really exciting and I'm very grateful to be in this position and have this opportunity to don the sash."
Toogood joins Carlton's Maddy Prespakis and Georgia Gee, Fremantle's Stephanie Cain, Collingwood's Sophie Alexander, Essendon VFLW players Georgia Nanscawen, Joanne Doonan, Jordan Zanchetta, Danielle Marshall and Federica Frew, alongside under-age signing Caitlin Sargent, on the Bombers' inaugural AFLW list.