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Bomber's breakout year

BTV: Hayley Bullas Interview We caught up with VFLW midfielder, and tackling machine, Hayley Bullas.

Few players can combine grunt and class the way VFLW Bomber Hayley Bullas does.

The impressive midfielder has been among Essendon’s best in the side’s inaugural season, taking giant strides towards her dream of reaching the pinnacle of women’s football.

Bullas is simply a tackling machine, averaging nearly 11 tackles a game and astonishingly recording 19 and 18 (twice) tackles in individual games this season.

To put that into context, Essendon senior men’s midfielder Devon Smith leads the AFL for tackles with an average of eight and a half per game.

The 21-year-old said she “absolutely” prides herself on her ferocious tackling, which has been a key feature of her impressive year for the Bombers.

“From day dot it’s been the thing that I absolutely love about football, is tackling.

“I love that part of things – I’m not a violent person – but I do love the tackling aspect of football.”

While natural at the game, Bullas hasn’t always been a footballer. She first dabbled in a variety of sports including basketball before falling in love with the sport she now excels in.

“I started in year eight playing footy just for school and I’m like, ‘I love this, what am I doing?’

“One of my friends brought me down to her local club Chirnside Park and I started playing youth girls there.

“I played all my youth there and then played a couple of years in the seniors and I thought, ‘There’s actually a pathway to better my footy and to maybe have a career out of this’.”

It was then that Bullas became more serious about football, taking a huge leap in class from Division Four to join Diamond Creek in the VFL last year.

After being in and out of the senior side throughout the year, Bullas began to get concerned about missing out on a VFL spot in 2018, but she was immediately relieved to be asked to trial for the Bombers.

“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I wasn’t sure what I was doing and I felt like I was one of the latecomers.

“I hadn’t really got a call and a lot of my friends had already had calls from different clubs.

“I had a call from another club and this club, and I decided to come here just because it’s got such great culture – something that I haven’t experienced in a long time.

Since grasping her opportunity, Bullas has relished her time at the Bombers where she has secured her position in the side’s on-ball brigade.

“I’ve been playing the best football that I’ve ever played. It’s a big mental game and that was what Is struggled with last season, mentally just my confidence.

“It’s been amazing to have that opportunity to just play consistent football and to be playing in the midfield and solidifying my spot there and being able to work in that position for a long period of time.

“It was a bit hard last season, because I was in and out of the side and I was playing wing or midfield or forward, so it’s been great to be able to do that here.”

As she continues to blossom in the program at Essendon, Bullas – who has previously nominated for the AFLW Draft – says she will put her hand up for a potential AFLW berth this year.

“I’ll put my name in. You’ve got nothing to lose, you don’t have to pay to put your name in.

“I’ve got a lot that I have to work on and I know that, so it’s just putting in that hard work now and if someone wants to take me and take a chance on me then I’m willing to put in 110 per cent.

“But it’s getting that chance first, so fingers crossed.”

She highlighted her disposal efficiency and cleanliness with the ball from ground level as key areas for improvement, and with the drive and promise she has shown in her short career in red and black so far, it is fair to say Bullas will only continue to develop.

As part of the trailblazing team, she described her new teammates as “family”, and said the brilliant environment the side has established has helped her greatly.

“The vibe here is so awesome and I’m just grateful that we have that. We have that camaraderie, we have that culture here and I think we pride ourselves on that a lot.

“It’s one of the things that I love about this club and having these girls here, they’re basically your family – you spend so much time with them during the week and even excess time you love to spend with these girls.”

With her new sisters by her side, Bullas looks back on her journey at The Hangar so far with great fondness.

“It’s been amazing to make history for this club and to go out there and pride yourself on wearing these jumpers and being the first girls to wear Essendon jumpers.

“It’s been an incredible experience and something that I’ll take with me forever.”