The Sandringham Dragons utility has landed at the Hangar after being taken with pick 20 in the AFLW Draft by Essendon.
While it caps off many years of hard work and effort over her career, Gough’s journey certainly hasn’t been an easy one by any means.
Gough has had to deal with several shoulder injuries that have forced her into spending significant periods of time on the sidelines.
The East Malvern Knights product had a shoulder reconstruction in August last year and says it meant she started behind the eight ball in 2023.
“It kind of put me back a fair way, I had no pre-season and only got back into full contact in February,” said Gough.
The new Bomber has dislocated her shoulder a few times before but decided enough was enough.
“It was a bit of a sub lux, I had to do a lot of rehab but it wasn’t too bad.
“I hadn’t done the shoulder for a whole year and was feeling pretty strong in my shoulders but then last year I did it again in local footy.
“I got so annoyed and thought ‘why do I keep doing this?’”
X-rays showed a shoulder labrum tear was contributing to the repetitive partial dislocations she was suffering.
“The doctor said I had to get surgery straight away if I wanted to play footy this year and I’m glad I made that decision.
“We were a couple of weeks away from local footy finals and basketball finals and rowing pre-season was about to start too.”
Gough made the difficult decision to go under the knife and miss out on her finals campaigns but has no regrets.
“He said I could push the surgery back two months and play those finals or I could have the surgery straight away and miss those finals but be able to really attack the season at Sandy.
“We lost those footy and basketball finals which made it really hard to watch from the sidelines, but in the long run I’m so thankful that I did that early.”
Gough comes from an elite sporting background, having played representative basketball for Waverley since under 12s, whilst also representing Victoria in rowing on the national stage.
“I played basketball since I was really young, it was the first sport I picked up.
“I started rowing at school and was lucky enough to be in the first crew every year and then last year I got to row for Victoria in Canberra, and we were fortunate to win that as well which was a really cool experience.”
Gough’s love for the game began when she took up the sport with her twin brother.
“Mum and Dad gave both my brother and I equal opportunity, I started in AusKick with him and then played in his team for the first couple of years which was great.”
But thankfully for the Bombers, Gough’s true sporting love was Aussie Rules footy.
“I definitely thought I was going down the rowing path. Last year when I rowed for Victoria there were heaps of girls talking about heading to America for rowing.
“That’s who I was surrounded by, they were talking about the amazing benefits of college life in America. I was lucky enough to be one of the top rowers at school, so it was a really hard decision for me but at the end of the day I went with what I loved more which was footy.”
Gough came into the Sandringham Dragons program last year and says the impact that a trio of former Dragons and now AFLW stars had on her was profound.
“The knowledge that I took from the girls who got drafted last year was really important for me. Even though I didn’t play a lot of games I trained a lot and I feel like I learned so much from the likes of Bridie Hipwell, Sofia Hurley and Keely Coyne.
“That really helped me this year to have confidence in myself even though I didn’t get much of a pre-season.”
She credits Sandringham Dragons midfield coach Danny Byrne as a key influence on her career so far.
“He helped me a lot last year and this year especially with my play on the wing.
“He’s been really influential on my game and helping me to keep improving week on week.”
Having previously played as a key forward, Byrne and the Dragons coaching staff trialled Gough on a wing in an intraclub practice match.
It was a great success, as Gough went on to average 18 disposals, four inside 50s and 3.4 marks per game, resulting in a runner up finish in Sandringham’s Best and Fairest.
“I was a lot taller than the other wingers and I loved that I could run as hard as I could up and down the ring.
“He saw something in me that I don’t think any other coach had seen before.”
She says that doubts did creep into her mind as to whether she was perhaps better suited to a role as a forward or even as a defender, but continued to put her head down and work hard and is glad that it has finally paid off.
“You have the confidence at the start, but the wing in particular requires a level of technical understanding, and I was still learning that throughout the season.
“I had doubts in my mind, but I kept on pushing through to see where it could go and I’m so glad I did.”
The Vic Metro representative can play a variety of roles and will add another dimension to the Bombers side with her versatility and kicking.
Having now become a Bomber, the sky is the limit for Gough.
“It’s a dream come true, I’ve gone through lots of ups and downs in not only my footy career but in other sports as well.
“All the hard work and hours you put in, balancing year 12 as well but being able to push through and get the best out of yourself, it’s a dream come true.”