'Fire Starters' is a series of in-depth feature stories on some of our top prospects in 2022, exploring their junior careers, their upbringing, their Dragons journey and aspirations for the future, written by Nathan Sepe and Dylan Bolch.
By Nathan Sepe
A leader on and off-field, Lucy Mitchell personifies the qualities of a leader willing to take on the game and rally on her teammates in times of need.
Mitchell’s football journey started right in 2017, right before the AFLW competition had just taken off.
Her first experience of Aussie Rules began at the East Sandringham Zebras in the SMJFL, a team culminated by Greg Hipwell, father of former teammate Bridie Hipwell.
“I was really into netball, basketball, athletics, and those kinds of things. I joined the team and at first, I was really lacking in skills,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell took the first year of her footballing development to get up to speed with the fundamentals of the game and it wasn’t long before she was able to make an impact in her games.
The East Sandringham dynasty set up a pathway for quite a few girls in the current Dragons side, with the likes of Keely Coyne, Tayla Jones, and Bridie Hipwell part of the success.
Junior coach Sean Lynch has seen Lucy develop throughout her junior career, being one of the leading individuals to take the realm at East Sandringham.
“I met Lucy when she was playing her first season of footy at East Sandy in 2017, when she was playing Under 14’s with my daughter Kiana”
Lynch began to coach the East Sandringham side in 2019, where he felt he was “taken back” by Lucy in her approach to a “team-first attitude”
“Her teammates were willing to follow her in their quest to become better and have success.”
Success was certainly a part of the culture Mitchell helped to establish, with the team going on to win two premierships.
“Would have been four if Covid didn’t happen” laughed Mitchell.
Along with Lucy’s passion for success, Lynch pointed out her willingness to develop as a versatile footballer during her Under 16 period.
“Lucy was willing to play anywhere on the field that her team needed her, she wanted to master every position she played”
Lynch commended Lucy for bringing a consistent attitude, “full of questions and eager to learn”.
It was towards the Under 16 year that Lucy started to thrive as a player, an observation that was obvious to Lynch.
“When we moved to game like training situations, Lucy wanted to make sure the team had all the tactics we needed to be successful”
Lucy had more drive than most of her teammates which stood out from a coaching perspective, Lynch said.
In 2018, Mitchell was part of the Next Generation Academy, one of the first to be part of the program.
“We played two years in that and then rolled into interleague,” Mitchell said.
Interleague played a big part in Mitchell’s development as she was awarded captain in the Division 2 side, representing the best players in the SMJFL at that time.
However, the experience came as a shock to Mitchell and her teammates, Mitchell commenting that it was a “surprise they selected us” due to most girls being relatively new to Aussie Rules.
After moving up to Division 1 interleague in 2019, Mitchell found a new drive for footy she hadn’t felt before.
“I remember thinking, I’m going to do this, and this is something I’m going to pursue”
In 2020, Mitchell began her time at the Sandringham Dragons, a club she felt she had an immediate connection to.
“I remember just feeling so included, the most a part of a team I’ve ever felt in my life.”
The Dragons program began to give Lucy a better indication of where she thrived in her skill set.
“I feel like I’m a great endurance runner, I can just keep on providing relentless aggression when everyone else falls off”
Whilst Mitchell has dabbled around all areas of the ground, she feels she has a lot more to provide in the backline.
“I love that pressure when you play back, I feel like I’m a hard edge player that sometimes we lack.”
Mitchell believes her best strengths fall under being “physical and getting involved”
Sandringham Dragons Head Coach Wayne Cripps was all praise for Mitchell’s self-preparation which ultimately is the reason behind her consistent performance.
“Lucy is a self-starter and very committed to her training with how she prepares her body from a strength and conditioning point of view”
This 2022 NAB League Girls Season also saw Lucy awarded a leadership team position, alongside Coyne, Jones, Hipwell, and Scibberas.
The choice was obvious for Cripps from his first day at the club, who straight away saw Mitchell as an “exceptional leader and someone the girls looked to”
“She has a very infectious personality and always ensures a good time is had,” Cripps said.
Moving forward Lucy is looking to push for the upcoming AFLW draft following her draft year season with the Dragons.
Cripps believes Lucy’s biggest strength lies in her ability to showcase aggressiveness on the ground, a key factor in the draft.
“You could always trust that Lucy would put her head over the footy and compete hard every time the ball was in her area”
The goal has been simple for Lucy this season, “give myself the best shot of getting drafted”
“I don’t want to give up on my dream of getting drafted, if it’s not this year, it’s still definitely something that I want to happen”