It’s Tiger Time for Issy Bacon.
The Sandringham Dragons product is the new Tiger in town after she was selected with pick 13 in the AFLW Draft on Monday night.
Issy Bacon has always wanted to be an elite athlete.
The Port Melbourne Colts junior grew up learning to ski on the slopes near Vancouver, Canada and has always been a sports fanatic.
“I haven’t stopped dreaming about becoming an elite athlete and hopefully it’s finally going to play out,” said Bacon ahead of Monday night’s AFLW draft.
Bacon tried to hand at a variety of sports in her youth, giving basketball, netball, cross country and athletics a go.
“I’ve been focussed more on netball and basketball and then really got into footy this year.”
Her footy journey started in under 12s at Port Melbourne Colts, but the side struggled to field a girls team which meant her first year in the sport was cut short.
“I wanted to focus on basketball, I wanted to become a professional basketballer and go to college before playing in the WNBA.
“But in the last couple of years playing basketball I was never really recognised for my ability, I struggled to crack a ones team and I was never selected for Vic Metro or anything.
“I became pretty frustrated and my love of the game kind of stopped.”
Then the Sandringham Dragons came knocking.
“My love for footy came about last year when I was finishing basketball and I got selected for the Sandringham Dragons.”
Bacon arrived at the Dragons ahead of the 2023 season after coming through the Next Gen and Interleague pathways like most Dragons girls do.
“I was the only top-ager to be added to the squad this season, I was the ‘oldie’ amongst the other girls.
“It was quite nerve-wracking and intimidating, I was the older girl and really wanted to make the squad.
“Once I did make it, I flourished being involved in an elite program. I really loved meeting everyone and fitting in to the squad. I wanted to make myself known and make a strong first impression.
“My main goal was to enjoy the year and work on my own development and skills as a player.
“I’ve only been in the talent pathways for one year, but I feel like I’ve achieved so much in that year.”
Bacon had an outstanding Coates Talent League season which saw her win the Sandringham Dragons Best and Fairest after averaging 13.8 disposals and an astonishing 7.8 tackles per game.
Bacon says the moment she realised she could take her footy to the next level came when she was invited to try out for Vic Metro’s National Championships squad.
“Up until that stage I didn’t really have a good sense of where I sat,” she said.
“I think that was the real turning point for me, I played one of my best games in that first tryout game back in June and I think that’s where it all started for me.
“It was such a relief when I got that email saying I was in the squad.
“I hadn’t been recognised to that level for any sport, so I was so relieved and honoured to be selected.
“To play alongside and against these girls with so much talent was such a great experience and a real highlight.”
Bacon’s outstanding Vic Metro campaign saw her receive the Vic Metro Coaches Award.
“Everything about the experience was great. I was pretty happy with myself to see that my coaches and teammates respect who I am and can see my talent and hard work.
“I like to think that I’m a team first player as well so winning that award meant a lot to me.”
Bacon was one of three Dragons girls to receive an invite to the National Combine and enjoyed the opportunity to put her name up in lights.
“It was actually good to have that sort of pressure with recruiters around the stands watching us test. I think that really helped me to strive to get PBs in the testing.”
Bacon said she treated her club interviews like job interviews and just tried to put her best foot forward.
“The nerves before going into a meeting, you don’t know what they’ll ask or what they’ll think.
“I just tried to be confident and answer as much as I could, I really liked getting an insight into all the behind-the-scenes stuff at clubland and getting to meet a lot of new people.”
Bacon sees herself as a half-back at the next level but would be more than happy to play anywhere if it means getting an opportunity.
“When Martha (Cantwell) told me I was going to play half-back I was so excited to crack in and try a new position.
“I’d always played midfield, but I was so open to the switch, I loved rotating through half-back and midfield.”
She is an elite competitor who possesses athleticism, explosive speed and endurance and the Tigers love her “combination of attacking and defensive game style”.
Speaking to Bacon, one thing is clear, relationships with her friends and family play a big role in her life.
“My Mum Ali and Dad Rob have always been supportive of me. They both also played a lot of sport when they were growing up, so they’ve got good sporting brains and are very competitive like me too.
“They’ve inspired me to push through this season and work hard to what I want to achieve.”
Bacon says that it “means everything” that she has finally made it onto an AFLW list.
“It means everything to my family and I, and I can’t wait to get stuck in.”