PLAYING for Collingwood in the inaugural NAB AFL Women's competition has added another element to Sarah D'Arcy's already busy life, but the hard-running forward is not complaining.
D'Arcy works as a traffic controller (the stop/slow sign holders), is studying to be a teacher – she's leaning towards teaching maths and physics in secondary school – and spends her remaining time with people just as passionate about football as she is.
"It was hard at the start, trying to juggle ‘uni’, work and training. It was an increase in my overall load with the three things, but now I'm doing well and absolutely loving it," the 25-year-old D'Arcy said.
"I love being around my teammates. I wasn't used to being in a professional environment, where everyone loves football as much as I do and are just as committed. It's a lot of fun."
Collingwood may have lost its first two matches, but D'Arcy has played consistently well both weeks.
She plays half-forward, and has been a standout in a team that has scored only five goals in two games.
D'Arcy has had 25 disposals in two weeks, and has provided an obvious target for the Magpies' better ball-users in captain Steph Chiocci and veteran defender Meg Hutchins.
Coach Wayne Siekman said D’Arcy had performed well, and if the Magpies had more players like her, they would be winning matches.
"She hits up at the footy and understands the game, so she's been a positive sign for us across half-forward," he said after the round-two loss to Melbourne.
From Healesville, in Melbourne’s outer east, D'Arcy has played footy on and off since she was a kid.
"I played Auskick when I was little. I wasn't aware girls could play with the boys, so I took a few years off," she said.
"I started playing again with the under-14 boys in Healesville, but I played only a few games before they discovered I was too old.
"So then I went straight into seniors with the Yarra Valley Cougars, where I played with (now Collingwood teammate) Lauren Tesoriero.
"I wasn't too fazed, but my parents were a bit worried. I was a pretty small and skinny 14-year-old."
Representing Victoria at just 17, D'Arcy trained under coach Leeann Gill, who invited her to join the Eastern Devils VFL Women's club. She's played her footy there ever since.
D'Arcy was picked at No.22 in the 2016 NAB AFL Women's Draft, Collingwood's third selection overall. She said the standard of the AFLW competition was similar to what she's used to at VFL Women's level, but playing in front of big crowds was a major difference.
"The standard's similar to what I'm used to. There's more pressure and intensity, though," she said.
"And playing in front of bigger crowds, you really notice it in the warm-up. But once the game starts I end up blocking it all out and just run. The crowd was so loud in the first game (against Carlton at Ikon Park), I could barely hear my teammates."