Bridie Hipwell is on the cusp of something special.
All the hours at the local football oval running and kicking balls with brother Darby, have led her to this point now.
With the AFLW Draft just days away, Hipwell spoke on the Dragons Den Podcast about what it would mean to realise her dreams and be drafted to a club on Wednesday.
“It would be pretty incredible. Coming into Dragons back in 2020, I thought yep that’s what I want to do. It would be good to hopefully get there and feel like all my hard work has paid off,” she said.
“You can’t get any higher than this level so it would be pretty amazing.”
Hipwell’s footballing journey started back in primary school when she put her hand up for a Year 6 Lightning Premiership carnival.
“It was played on an oval the size of the 50m arc with plastic sticks as goal posts, it was a bit of a makeshift game.”
But it was there where Hipwell’s love for the game began.
“That brought me to saying to my parents ‘I think I want to play footy’. Dad said he would coach, and we gathered up some girls and started the team down at East Sandringham.”
Bridie Hipwell gets a kick away during her junior career at the East Sandringham Zebras.
The term ‘footy factory’ gets thrown around a bit these days, but that Hipwell-led Zebras side only added to the growing reputation the East Sandringham Zebras have.
The Zebbies have produced some of the biggest names in football.
Chris Judd, Jobe Watson, Ben and Max King, Isabel Huntington and former Dragon Hugo Hall-Kahan are just a handful of names that once appeared in the yellow and black stripes of East Sandringham.
Hipwell’s side came together in 2017 and featured fellow Dragons Keely Coyne, Lucy Mitchell and Tayla Jones.
“We won a couple of grand finals which was good, we had quite a strong team.
“They were definitely some good memories.”
Hipwell’s older brother, Darby, is also a very strong footballer.
Darby, a former Dragon himself, now plays for the Sandringham Zebras in the VFL, playing alongside many St Kilda AFL-listed players.
For Bridie, her older brother has been a “good motivator” throughout her footy journey.
“He would drag me out of the house to go for a kick with him and vice versa. Through lockdown and all of that, he was good to have because we would just do sessions together and run together.
“He was pretty unlucky with his draft year, so that’s been a good incentive for me to take every opportunity because you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Bridie Hipwell celebrates winning a premiership with her teammates at East Sandringham.
Hipwell is also a solid netballer, but since starting at East Sandy in 2017, she’s gone from strength to strength on the football field.
She joined the Dragons in 2020 and immediately flourished in the professional environment.
“It was quite a step up from club footy and the small experiences I’d had in Interleague.
“It was pretty cool to be playing with the girls, I played the first few rounds before COVID came and interrupted our lives.
“It was surreal to watch seven of those girls go on and get drafted, it was quite exciting to see that could be us in a couple of years.”
And after looking up to those girls, Hipwell is now set to become the role model herself.
Bridie Hipwell participates in the Agility Test at the AFLW Combine. (Source: AFL Photos)
The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted football across the nation, but Hipwell believes that she “got through it okay” and that it didn’t hinder her own development too much.
“In terms of development, it was alright for me because I had that motivation with it being Darby’s draft year. There wasn’t much else to do so having a kick at the oval or going for a run was as enjoyable as it got through that time.”
However, the pandemic did take away Hipwell’s opportunities to play consistent football for the Dragons, one of her main goals heading into the 2022 campaign.
“It was pretty crappy. We were doing well at the Dragons, seven of the girls got drafted so that says enough in itself.”
But 2022 has seen blue skies for football once again.
“It was our first full consistent season, for myself that was all I really wanted, to play some good, consistent footy. Between COVID and injuries I’ve never really had that.
“The message Crippa [Wayne Cripps] began with at the start of pre-season, connection amongst our team and having that first before all the footy stuff, our team took that on well and we had a real close friendship with one another.
“That was one of the best things about it, forming friendships with girls from all over the place.
“The coaches were awesome and so supportive throughout the whole thing too, we couldn’t have asked for better coaches.”
Bridie Hipwell gets a kick for the Sandringham Dragons. (Source: AFL Photos)
Off the back of strong showings for the Dragons, Hipwell was selected in both the Vic Metro and AFLW Academy squads.
Her first Metro experience (back in 2021) came as a surprise to her, after playing just three games of football for the Dragons prior to being selected.
“It was really exciting and whole step up from Dragons. Being in that environment also makes you play better yourself.”
Hipwell was selected for Vic Metro again this year, but her campaign was unfortunately hampered by a wrist injury.
“I won’t lie I’d rather be on the ground playing. I was very grateful to still be involved, even if that was wearing the fluoro pink outfit and running out to the girls.”
Despite her injury, Hipwell was determined to remain involved and contribute to the team as much as possible, such is her team-first mentality.
“When we played in QLD I sat on the bench and handed out icepacks to everyone because it was that hot, so I was always doing something and trying to be involved. At the end of the day, I would’ve done anything to be out there actually playing.”
Hipwell gained a greater insight into the game by immersing herself with the coaching staff on game day.
“Being on the bench with some of the coaches and being able to see exactly what they are talking about you can definitely understand the messages they’re trying to get across.”
Bridie Hipwell gathers the ball whilst playing for Vic Metro. (Source: AFL Photos)
Thankfully, Hipwell had overcome her wrist injury just in time to play in the AFLW Academy match.
“It was pretty surreal to be told that I was going to be selected for that.
“Sof [Hurley] and I and the other Vic Metro girls were told at one of the camps. I remember someone mentioning this academy thing and not quite understanding what it was and then Tarkyn [Lockyer] being like congratulations you’ve been selected for it.
“It’s a pretty big honour, it was all excitement.”
That Academy allowed Hipwell and some of the best talent in the country to work alongside AFLW icon Daisy Pearce.
“It was pretty awesome to work with her and cool to hang out with her. There were times where it wasn’t about footy and that was awesome.”
Bridie Hipwell receives her AFLW Academy jumper. (Source: AFL Photos)
Since then, Hipwell has played in the VAFA for Old Brighton against bigger and more senior competitors, and you’d be forgiven for thinking she’d might take some time to become accustomed to that.
She hasn’t at all.
In a match against the Monash Blues, she tore the game open booting two early goals and being named amongst her team’s best players.
After all her hard work, now all she can do is wait.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in that [the draft] is so close. I’m excited but nervous because you don’t know what is going to happen, I can’t do anything more now, so I just have to wait and see.”
The AFLW Draft will take place on Wednesday 29 June and can be streamed via womens.afl.