Sophie McKay celebrates during the Marsh AFL National Academy Girls vs U23 All-Stars at Ikon Park, April 6, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Draft Diaries is back, this year following Vic Metro's Sophie McKay and Western Australia's Zippy Fish in their final season of junior footy. Both are eligible for the AFLW Draft at the end of the year, ahead of the 2025 season, with McKay a potential father-daughter signing at Carlton.

SOPHIE McKay's year hasn't quite started as planned.

Keen to work on building her endurance over pre-season, the potential Carlton father-daughter signing promptly tore her hamstring on the first day of Vic Metro's summer camp.

It was a relatively minor tear, but nonetheless put her behind the eight-ball.

When she was ready to return to training a month later, she was hit with a brief bout of COVID.


Then came the ham incident.

"I was making a ham sandwich – it was ham on the bone, and I sliced my finger open," McKay said ruefully.

"I've had three full weeks of pre-season.

"Definitely my aerobic capacity could be worked on. It's always been below where I wanted it to be, so this year I'm really doing all the extras I can do to build that up."

McKay is the daughter of premiership player Andrew, who recorded 244 games for Carlton. Older sister Abbie is also at the Blues, having played 43 games to date and finishing second in the club's best and fairest for the past two seasons (by a cumulative three votes).


After retiring from playing in 2003 – three years before Sophie was born – Andrew also held the role of footy boss at the Blues from 2011-2018.

"I've supported Carlton my whole life, die-hard Carlton fan. For the boys, Paddy Cripps, he's awesome, but for the girls, Abbie McKay [is my favourite]," she said.

"I do have a good relationship with the Blues. When I was sick during school, Dad would take me there because he was working and no one could look after me.

"I'd spend the day at the club, just walking around and eating lollies. It's always been a home base for me, but we'll see. Happy to go anywhere, obviously the Blues would be awesome, but open to anywhere.

"Dad fully sits back. We don't really talk a lot of football, he's more my dad. If I ask, he'll give me some advice, but more of a support system for me."

Sophie McKay of Sandringham Dragons during the AFL National Academy Girls training session at Ikon Park, January 19, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Unlike Abbie, who was a relatively late convert to footy after mum Sam helped create the first all-girls team at Prahran, Sophie has played the game since she was six.

The powerful midfielder is also a natural in front of goal, booting three in the Marsh AFLW Academy's thumping win over the under-23 All-Stars side.

"My dad played football, so it was always in conversation, in context, but I just loved it.

"I'm the youngest of three, so going to every one of my siblings' matches, watching them, make dad kick it back and forth to me every quarter (break). That's where it started, and I was at a very sporty school, surrounded by all the boys who loved football. I thought I was one of them. It's always been around me," McKay said.

Sophie McKay during the AFL National Championships match between Vic Metro and South Australia at Avalon Airport Oval, July 9, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"I love the fast nature of it. For me, one of my strengths is being fast. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I'm fast, maybe. If there's grass in front of me, I love to take that and drive my legs and love that nature of football.

"I usually, predominantly play inside mid. I love it in there, it's physical, it's fast, but I think my strengths are taking grass, running and driving my legs. I like to stay a little bit on the outside, get the handball and run for my life, but I can take a tackle or two."

At this point of her final year of junior football, McKay's priorities are to "have fun and really embrace it, not take it too seriously inside my head", as well as work on that pesky aerobic capacity.

She's in year 12 at Melbourne Girls Grammar, and is kept busy by the family's five pets – 14-year-old labrador Wally, kelpie Winnie, sausage dogs Poppy and Peggy, and cat Lulu.

Sophie McKay after the 2023 Herald Sun Shield: Division 1 Senior Girls Grand Final between Caulfield Grammar and Melbourne Girls Grammar at Trevor Barker Beach Oval, August 9, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"I'm feeling pretty good about the draft (at this point of the year). Obviously nervous, but I'm trying to leave the future in the future, be in the moment and be present in the now.

"It's scary and it's always in the back of your mind, but I'm trying to be present in this moment.

"It's never really felt close, I've always thought I've got a few years, but now it's business time."