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Victorian netball talent makes impressive switch to footy

ONE OF Victoria's brightest young netball talents has decided to explore what Australian Football has to offer, having her first kick for the Darebin Falcons on Sunday in the Victorian State Women's League.

Libby Birch, 18, who has represented Victoria in netball at U17, U19 and U21 level, only decided to play footy for a club recently, joining the Falcons less than a month ago.

She had not played footy since primary school but earned her spot after impressing the Falcons with her athletic ability to play against Knox. 

Birch managed to kick a goal during the Falcons' win and was mobbed by teammates that included the female competition's highest-profile player, Daisy Pearce, and best on ground Darcy Vescio.

"It was absolutely awesome," Birch told AFL.com.au.

Although Birch will combine netball in the Victorian Netball League, where she played with Booroondara Express, and football in the Victorian State Women's League with Darebin, her keenness to try footy is a good sign for the upcoming national women's league.

The new women's league was launched last week and will kick off in February 2017 with Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle, the Brisbane Lions, Greater Western Sydney and Adelaide part of the eight-team competition.

Birch attended Maribyrnong Sports Academy, developing her athletic capabilities before graduating. She is now studying physiotherapy at LaTrobe University.

Maribyrnong Sports Academy's high performance manager Brent Vallance said Birch has attributes that should hold her in good stead playing football.

"She has got a lot of things football will embrace. She has got a good training ethic," Vallance told AFL.com.au.

"She is very advanced in her strength and conditioning [and] we put her through the AFL agility test and she ran 8.23."

Falcons coach Jane Lange told AFL.com.au that Birch's development is expected to take some time as she combines two sports, but she has been extremely impressed with the youngster's talent and enthusiasm.

"When she is doing competitive work, she doesn't take a step back," Lange said.

"It was really good to see."

Birch said her teammates offered support during the game on Sunday and admitted she had to ask Pearce for some help in tackling before the game.

"It's an awesome opportunity to get," Birch said.

"[I] love the culture of women's footy and the girls have been amazing."

Vallance said Birch has worked with Carlton fitness coach Joel Hocking but says she has an enormous amount to learn when it comes to the skills and game sense.

"She will be knocking down doors everywhere to go and find out what she needs to do to be better," Vallance said.

Lange said it was always exciting to see talented athletes take up the sport. 

"Getting girls that have come across from other sports, whether they have played at the elite level or a domestic-type level, they often bring different skills and attributes," Lange said. 

"It's really interesting to see how some of those transfer into footy."

Maribyrnong Sports Academy will run an Australian Football talent search on July 16.

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