FOR someone who's a dog groomer and takes immense pride in grooming her eyebrows, Amy McDonald says her football was once anything but well groomed.
"I didn't have much polish about me at all," she told AFL.com.au this week.
On the one hand, it makes her evolution from local footballer in Ballarat to three-time best and fairest winner at the Cats even more remarkable.
But on the other, it explains her unrelenting attitude on the field; someone who has had to fight and scrap her way to the top.
"I was a pretty raw footballer," McDonald said of her local footy days playing for Redan.
"I'd sort of see ball, get ball.
"I was really fortunate that I came down to Geelong to the VFL program, where I was able to learn a lot and enter the AFL system that way."
That debut for the AFLW team came in 2020. McDonald was 22.
"I was travelling down to Geelong and trying to work full-time for six months of the year, part-time for six months of the year, and with very fussy hours for those part-time hours," she said.
"It became a real challenge. I was looking at what I could do to make that balance work.
"I loved dogs and it was something that interested me so I thought, 'why not give it a shot?'.
"I did a dog grooming course and opened up a little salon in my backyard and did that for about 12 months or so, which was really amazing.
"It provided me with more time to commit to football. Prior to that it was more just doing the bare minimum."
McDonald's ability to control when she worked allowed her football to flourish, winning three consecutive club best and fairests in seasons five, six and seven.
Along with Dick Grigg – who played for the Cats in the early 1900s – McDonald is the only player in the club's storied history to achieve that feat.
"I am very proud and it is insane when you say a statistic like that," McDonald said, somewhat reluctantly.
"I think it's something that – when my footy career comes to an end – it's something that I'll really understand and cherish.
"I've been really fortunate to be at this club since the beginning of my footy. They gave a chance on me. I'm really happy here and want to stick it out for a while.
"Hopefully there's a lot of success in our group for a long time yet."
That first bit of finals success came last Sunday - an 18-point win over Essendon at GMHBA Stadium giving Dan Lowther's side safe passage to a semi-final against Melbourne.
From the opening bounce – where Georgie Prespakis cleared the ball and speared a pass to Chloe Scheer, who in turn found Aishling Moloney inside 50 – it was clear the Cats came to play.
"There was a lot of belief within the group and I think pretty much from that moment when Aishling kicked that goal I think, as a collective, we were like, 'we're on here, girls'," McDonald said.
"It really put us where we needed to be and got that energy and vibe amongst all of us."
McDonald is the ultimate vibe queen.
Before the Cats sing their song after a win, the 25-year-old – just like she does during the game – becomes a conductor. Upon her instruction, or indeed her scream, McDonald's teammates know it's time to belt out We Are Geelong.
"I think it was a rogue moment one day," McDonald laughed.
"I started with a 'who are we?' and it randomly has stuck. I think it's my favourite part of the week, getting to sing the song with the girls and really put some passion into it."
While McDonald may have the propensity to be rogue, there's one part – well two parts – that can't fall into that category. Her eyebrows.
It's serious business.
"You've caught me on a good day," McDonald said.
"I had them done yesterday. I've become known for the eyebrows.
"When I was younger I had very thick, bushy eyebrows and mum wouldn't let me get them waxed because they were so nice and thick.
"I thought I'd teach her one and pulled them all out with tweezers, which I very instantly regretted as I had no eyebrows. Ever since I've had them back, I've respected them very much."
Brows now intact, McDonald's respect turns to the reigning premiers.
The Demons – having kicked just one goal in their past six quarters – are navigating a patch of form that can only be described as unusual.
"I think it's pretty obvious they haven't been happy with their past two performances so they've got a lot to prove," McDonald said.
"When we played them back in round five, we stuck with them for two-and-a-half quarters before they outrun us and put their foot down.
"But I think Geelong have started to play a lot more consistent football in the last few weeks and we're starting to peak at the right end of the season. I think our best football is good enough for anyone."