AFTER being delisted by Carlton, Maddy Keryk "banned" herself from thinking about one thing: playing in the NAB AFL Women's competition again.
The 23-year-old Keryk, drafted by Geelong in October, played just two AFLW games for the Blues in 2018 after six (of seven) the year before, when she was vice-captain.
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The writing was on the wall early when she was fit but not getting a game for a team languishing at the bottom of the ladder.
At the conclusion of the 2018 season, Keryk began to look elsewhere. Encouraged by good friend and Geelong VFLW captain Bec Goring, the Cats were on her list.
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"I was calling around different clubs to find if anyone might have a spot available," Keryk told AFL.com.au.
"I initially contacted Geelong. They said, 'If you want to come and play VFLW, we have a spot available, but there are no guarantees around AFLW’."
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However, Keryk was still holding out hope for a Carlton lifeline, and played five games for the club's VFLW side (including one against Geelong) before her delisting from the AFLW side was confirmed.
"Once I got delisted, Geelong contacted me and said the VFLW spot was still available. It's the best decision I've made," she said.
The tough inside midfielder played 12 games for the Cats’ VFLW side and was named in the best eight times.
"Obviously I wanted to play AFLW again, because I love it and I'm too competitive not to, but my main focus (for the VFLW season) was going somewhere that was going to help improve, where I would work hard and have fun," Keryk said.
"In terms of getting selected for the AFLW side, I'm not a list manager. I don't get to make that decision, so I banned myself from thinking about it.
"All I could control is how hard I worked at getting better at my footy, so that's what I focused on. It's a credit to the program at Geelong that I was able to improve quite a bit in a short space of time and play some really good, consistent footy."
Keryk had hopes she would be drafted by the Cats on October 23, when the Melbourne University doctorate of physiotherapy student was studying for exams but didn't know for sure.
"I wasn't being very productive. I had the live stream on my laptop while we were practicing for the practical component of our exams," Keryk said.
"I was super-excited, running around and distracting everyone trying to study but I was very, very excited and glad to end up where I did."
Keryk grew up in Essendon in Melbourne’s north-west, played her junior footy for Aberfeldie and at youth girls’ level for St Albans.
She's in the process of moving out of home for the first time and plans to live in Geelong with teammate Mia-Rae Clifford.
"All through the VFLW season I was travelling down to Geelong, which was hard because I'm studying full-time," she said.
"I'd be at uni from nine to four, then I'd drive or catch the train to training.
"It'll be so much easier being in Geelong, not having to travel and being able to access the facilities all the time, especially for recovery.
"It's a real community-family vibe at Geelong … we all share the same space and facilities," she said.
"Everyone's helping each other and there are no division between groups. That inclusive nature is something I really like about the Cats."