'Bazza' joins the big league in AFLW debut

Former Strathalbyn Football Club star Abbie Ballard impressed her coaches and teammates in her AFL Women's debut on Saturday, January 22.

Ballard, from Coomandook, ran out alongside her Adelaide Crows teammates for the first time onto Swinburne Centre's oval in Melbourne to take on the West Coast Eagles.

In sweltering conditions, Ballard notched up 10 disposals including nine kicks, three marks, and two tackles, and she kicked a point.

The Crows registered a 31-point win and remain undefeated, making her debut that bit sweeter.

"To have a good game and to get the win, and get another win on the board as well, it was great. And then to have that Powerade shower," she said.

She had found out she would line up in the Crows' starting 16 on her drive back to Coomandook after training on Wednesday night, when coach Matthew Clarke called her.

"He was like, 'When you get home you'd better tell your parents that you're playing your first game', and I just said, 'Really?'. I didn't believe it at all," she said.

"I rang Mum and I started crying and she started crying, and I rang Dad and he was just as excited... and so proud."

Ballard was named in the forward line with a task of tackling, putting on pressure acts, and having shots on goal, and was impressive in all three areas.

"I was more expecting to play in the forward line; they told me that I'll probably play a majority of my time in the forward line because it's such a hard midfield to crack," she said.

"I'm happy to be there, it's a spot in the team, and I don't mind the forward line - kicking goals is always great, so as long as I get a few of them this year that'll be great."

A highlight was a huge tackle that stopped her opponent dead in her tracks.

"I don't think as many people expect me to hit as hard as I do, or just be a wall and they hit me hard and they come off worse - it's definitely one of my weapons," she said.

She said she had worked hard during the pre-season to make the side, and to debut was a dream finally come true.

"The girls are great, everyone's been so welcoming and supportive," she said.

It was special that her parents and two sisters could get to the game in Melbourne.

"It meant a lot and I could show them that all the sacrifice that they made was worth it," she said.

"They presented me my guernsey so that meant a lot as well - it was unreal having them there."

Clarke, the Crows' senior coach, said Ballard had a great debut game.

"She played really well, crunching tackle, had a couple of opportunities at goal so a really good debut for her," he said.