WITH licences for the 2019 AFL Women's season set to be announced next week, Kate Sheahan is bullish about Richmond's chances.
"My gut feeling is we're in a really good place," Sheahan told AFL.com.au.
"It's our time. The club's in a really good place to be able to facilitate a team.
"I know for a fact we've got sponsors who have committed to AFLW when we get our team. It's a terrific place to be in, knowing we can just hit the ground running."
Click here for all AFLW news
Sheahan, who sustained a serious knee injury in her one and only game for the Magpies’ AFLW team this year, was approached by Richmond CEO Brendon Gale for the role of the club’s women’s football operations manager the day the AFL Commission announced the AFLW would be expanded in 2019.
"He and [the Tigers’ talent general manager] Dan Richardson came to my neck of the woods and had a coffee with me, and they pretty much said, 'Would you like to do a presentation to our executive on what you think women's football operations should look like?'"
"They had so many questions. They wanted to know my experience at Collingwood, what I thought of women's football, my experience in the elite tennis industry and how that all ties together."
Sheahan believes the greatest selling point of the club's submission is its work with male indigenous players, and how easily that work can translate to working with female indigenous players.
The club runs the Laguntas program through AFL Victoria, which last year had five Indigenous players – Kayle Kirby, Mitch McCarthy (both Collingwood), Dion Johnstone (Melbourne), Jamaine Jones (Geelong) and Tristan Tweedie (Western Bulldogs) – drafted by AFL clubs. Current Tigers Daniel Rioli and Nathan Drummond are also graduates of the program.
Richmond also hosts the Korin Gamadji Institute (KGI) at its Punt Road headquarters, where Indigenous students can study up to year 10.
"What [Richmond is] doing blew me away, providing pathways and opportunities for indigenous athletes to play at AFL or AFLW level," she said.
"We've got kids coming down from the Northern Territory to do schooling at our football club, the classrooms are upstairs and they're here every day, out kicking footballs at lunchtime."
Aaron Clark, the director of the KGI, was part of a group, including Sheahan, Gale, club president Peggy O'Neal and Richardson, that presented the club's AFLW submission to an AFL sub-committee.
Sheahan said the Tigers’ proposal covered club culture, building an AFLW list and program, developing women's football in their region, and financial modelling.
"I said to Brendon afterwards, 'I know this is important to this football club, but this is incredibly important to me. When I was 13 or 14 I thought I'd never get this opportunity and my dreams were shattered. But now, every girl gets the opportunity to do this.'
"Since I've been here I've realised how passionate and a bit crazy, in a good way, Richmond supporters are, and I just know they'll get behind it. It'll be phenomenal."
Although this is Sheahan's first formal role at an AFL club, her experience running an elite junior tennis coaching program means she is accustomed to developing programs for talented athletes.
"I'm bringing things from tennis into the football club. Because tennis is an individual sport, you spend a lot of time working on technical analysis and personal one-on-one development programs.
"That's what I think I'll bring into this football club from an AFLW point of view. Yes, it’s a team sport, but moving forward, all of these girls will require one-on-one coaching," she said.
"I was really lucky when I was younger, I travelled on and off for four years with Andre Agassi and Steffi Graff as their nanny, so I feel like I've been around elite environments for most of my life.
"Now I'm lucky I get to take what I've learnt from these people and put it in to practice myself."
With her father Mike an integral part of the football media landscape for more than four decades, Sheahan has been immersed in the AFL world since a young age.
"I can understand people saying, 'What's Kate's experience?' because I haven't been working in women's footy before. I don't claim to have been a pioneer of women's football - I haven't been - but I spent my life growing up in AFL football."