Eliza West after signing with Hawthorn during the 2023 AFLW trade period. Picture: Hawthorn FC

THINGS can change quickly in footy.

Eliza West went from being a core part of Melbourne's premiership midfield in 2022, to being squeezed out of that same midfield in finals just a year on.

The Dees bowed out in straight sets, and three weeks later, West was wearing new colours after a trade to Hawthorn.


"It wasn't ideal," West told AFL.com.au.

"You train so hard always to get yourself a spot on the team… and then once you don't get picked it does suck because that's why you're there and you want to be playing, but everybody's dealing with that every week."

West missed Melbourne's qualifying final against North Melbourne, in which her side suffered its biggest loss since 2019. And, as much as it hurt, the focus for West was on how she could contribute in a different, off-field role.

"Obviously I wasn't needed that week for that game and that's fine. I'm cut by it, but I'm actually just going to focus on what I can do next, and that's show up in our kick around, do what I can, be the bib, do whatever and still train hard," West said.

"And then the following week as well, show up to training, work even harder, and start pushing to get myself back in the team… that's life, and it's football, so (it's) just about how quick you can bounce back and respond in those times."

Eliza West in action during Melbourne's semi-final against Geelong on November 19, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

West returned to the side the following week for its semi-final clash with Geelong, recording 26 disposals and eight clearances, but that would ultimately be her final game in the red and blue.

West was a latecomer to footy, heading to the USA to play college basketball before resettling in Melbourne and dipping her toe in via the VFLW.

Strong form showing off her brand as a highly contested, pressure-applying midfielder earned her a rookie spot with Melbourne in 2022, and a premiership medallion in just her second season later that year.

"My time at Melbourne was so special, and they were the club that took an opportunity on me being somebody who never played football before," West said.

"But just like with everything in life, a new opportunity, new challenges, and I guess it was just at that time where you're in a new phase of your career, and when I thought about moving here, all I could see was just challenge and opportunity."

Eliza West celebrates Melbourne winning the 2022 Season Seven Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

Growing up a Richmond fan, West was determined to separate her love for the club as a fan, and her own career, refusing to let her passion for the Tigers – and Dustin Martin – cloud her decision-making.

"You grow up going for your team, it's like a religion here. I love the Tiges, love Dusty obviously. But no, I don't think I was ever like 'I want to play for the Tiges'," West said.

"Especially thinking of it as your own individual career and what you're trying to achieve. The Hawks was the best fit for me and I'm so happy that I've landed here."

That didn't mean that a close brush with Martin wasn't a big deal, though, with a chance encounter at the airport last year still playing on West's mind.

"I saw him at the airport, we were going to New Zealand on the exact same flight, and I made the biggest fool of myself," West laughed.

"I saw him, and I got starstruck."

It was by watching the Richmond star that West honed her own game, focusing on her assets rather than her weaknesses as she developed her footy.

"You can always pick up on the little thing, and Dusty, he may not be the fastest but he's so strong and he uses his footwork well, his smarts well, so taking little things like that on how to use your strength to the best of your ability," West said.

The appeal of getting to play alongside former AFLW best and fairest winner Emily Bates was a major drawcard at the Hawks.

"She's a fierce competitor… everything's a competition, even if it's like I had an idea and someone liked my idea more she's like 'you won that one'," West said with a laugh.

"Knowing she was here I was very inclined because she's just such a great person to learn from. She's so experienced, she's so talented."

Emily Bates contests the ball during round six, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Arriving at a new club can be a daunting experience, but for West, she was arriving with former Melbourne teammate Casey Sherriff, making the landing a little softer.

"It was honestly perfect that we came across together," West admitted.

"We played basketball together growing up… we've always kind of been doing sport together and then reconnected at Melbourne, and then now coming across here together. It's like (we're) meant to play together forever."

Casey Sherriff (left) and Eliza West after signing with Hawthorn during the 2023 AFLW trade period. Picture: Hawthorn FC

And another new face at the club is head coach Daniel Webster, under whom West is ready to thrive. Webster's background as Brisbane's midfield coach in recent seasons has the new recruit in safe hands.

"We didn't get to actually meet him during our time playing VFLW, but we had conversations on the phone, and just the information he was giving us on the phone was so helpful," West said.

"I was like 'I've haven't even met this guy and I've already learned 30 things' like, it's ridiculous… you already know that he's so passionate, he brings so much energy, but he just knows how to get the best out of everybody."

A stint in the VFLW earlier in the year offered West a chance to find her feet alongside her new teammates, meaning she can hit the season proper with a bang.

Her Hawthorn career will kick off with a game against Carlton at Kinetic Stadium on Sunday, September 1. It'll be Hawthorn's opportunity to unveil its new midfield combination of Bates, emerging star Jasmine Fleming and their new star in West.