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Rising star Paterson focused on finals with SwansFriday, June 21, 2024 - 8:02 AM - by Chris Pike

LILY Paterson has been one of the breakout stars of the WAFLW season in 2024 as a big ball winner in the Swan Districts midfield with the 18-year-old having a definite AFLW future, but the finals for Swans is her focus right now.

Paterson has only just recently turned 18 and in her first year out of school, she decided to defer her university studies to fully focus on her football.

The first goal for 2024 was to take the next step in her football in the WAFLW competition with Swan Districts and she has now done that to be averaging 24.9 possessions a game with some stunning best on ground performances along the way.

What her form this season has undoubtedly done is put Paterson in prime position to be an AFLW draftee later this year ahead of the 2025 season, but that's not what she's focusing on right now.

Paterson is thinking of nothing but doing all she can to help Swan Districts to a successful finals campaign which begins this Sunday in a cut-throat first semi-final against West Perth at Joondalup's Pentanet Stadium.

Dream of playing AFLW

Paterson has dreamed through most of her teenage of years of one day playing in the AFLW competition and once she finished high school last year, she wanted to do everything possible to make that happen.

Paterson decided to delay the start of her university studies to be able to put as much time into her football in 2024 as possible and clearly it's paying off with the starring role she's playing in the midfield with Swan Districts.

While her AFLW future is out of her hands in terms of if she gets drafted or not later in 2024, she will be able to know she's left no stone unturned.

"Me and my dad speak about it quite a bit that the draft is coming up and it is an exciting thing but also it would be a bit sad if I had to leave my teammates at Swans. I'm very keen for whatever way it goes and would be grateful and happy if I got an opportunity," Paterson said.

"At the beginning of the year I definitely looked at it as being my draft year so I wanted to give it my all and at least say that I tried my best.

"That's what I have done and I look up to a lot of the girls who play AFLW and I aspire to get to where they are one day. I hope I get that chance and I feel like I've done all the work that I can now to try and make that happen."

Life away from football

While not studying this year has opened up a lot of time for Paterson to focus on her football and doing everything she can to get her body ready for a potential AFLW future, that doesn't mean life isn’t still busy.

Like any 18-year-old, Paterson still needs to make money and working for her captain Eliza Gelmi is a nice way to do that while there's always plenty to do around the family property in Brigadoon, including getting back on the horse after a nasty fall a couple of years back.

"I did get into uni but I deferred for this year so I could focus on footy and I'm working at Toyworld for my captain at Swans, Eliza. I'm also coaching a girl's footy team down at Guildford Grammar so that all keeps me pretty busy," Paterson said.

"We live on a bit of a property too so there's always jobs to do around here and I only just started getting back riding our horse too.

"It's definitely a bit scary because I did have a bit of a fall a couple of years ago. It took me a long time to get back on, but I've been back a couple of times now and am getting used to it again.

"With the fall I had, at least I didn’t break anything, but I did fall off and land on an electric fence and couldn’t move. So it wasn’t very comfortable that's for sure but I was grateful to not break anything, it just wasn’t too much fun at the time."

Enjoying 2024 season so far

Having started her football with Swan Districts back in 2022 in the Rogers Cup and then graduating to get her first taste in the WAFLW in 2023, Paterson has made a stunning leap into one of the standout players in the competition in 2024.

The work she has put in but also the faith placed in her by her teammates and coaching staff at Swans has been clearly obvious with the outstanding form she went on to show as a big ball-winning midfielder throughout the home and away season.

"I've definitely enjoyed it a lot more this year just with the environment and the way all the players have got around each other," Paterson said.

"I've really enjoyed the process we're going through and we've all just gelled. I think you can really see that out on the field as well and I think that's how we've gotten to where we are to make the finals.

"Individually I have tried to put in a lot of effort this year as have a lot of the other girls, we have made a few changes from last year and just really got stuck into it to give it our all, and it's paid off."

Midfield group you are part of

No midfield unit is ever just a one person show and that's why Paterson is thriving on playing aside fellow young gun Carys D'Addario in the middle for Swan Districts.

However, the learning she has done from playing alongside the more experienced Emma Humphries, Kayley King, Taylah Edwards, Hope Ugle-Haward, and then captains Eliza Gelmi and Demi Liddle has been invaluable.

"Me and Caz are definitely really good friends so that makes it a lot easier to have that understanding when we play together," Paterson said.

"We really trust each other and can see where the other one is going to go, and we think the same so that makes it a lot easier when you have teammates like that around you. But our whole midfield get along so well and communicate really well, which makes it good.

"Then as a team, we've had Eliza and Demi as the captains who bring a lot of experience, and they have given me a lot of advice and have helped me out a lot along with the whole team. So I'm very thankful for them."

Closeness of this playing group

There was plenty of change in the off-season at Swan Districts coming into the 2024 season including Ben Bowness taking over as coach, but there were plenty of turnover in the playing list too.

What Paterson has clearly noticed as a significant difference in this team of 2024 is how close of a group the players have become on and off the field, while also feeling a better connection with the coaching staff.

"We're even just doing more things together out of the club this year as a group. We've had a pasta night before a game, a couple of quiz nights and stuff like that to bond us even more together," she said.

"The coaches coming through this year are definitely willing to listen to the players a bit more too and hear what we have to say, which is really good. It definitely helps us and you can see the benefits of it in our footy."

Winning so much of the ball

Paterson has gone on to average 24.9 possessions a game which has now included her twice getting 37 in a game which was a mark she got to for a second time in last Saturday's big win against Peel Thunder to secure a finals spot.

Winning a lot of the ball is something she naturally enjoys, but creating for her teammates even more so.

"I definitely enjoy it and I love being a bit of a playmaker for the team," Paterson said.

"I love being able to see where I want to kick the ball and take on some of those risky kicks to try and help the team, and watch them payoff at times. It's just fun out there when you are in the game, you're having fun with your mates and the environment is so great. I just love it."

Dealing with changing player group

Even though Swans are now preparing to take part in another finals campaign and will be taking on West Perth at Pentanet Stadium on Sunday with a spot in the preliminary final on the line, it doesn’t mean it's been a smooth ride in 2024 with significant coming and going of players right throughout the season.

While that can make it difficult to get that chemistry going from week to week, Paterson likes the entire squad there is at Swans and how quickly they can all adapt to changes along the way.

"It's definitely not easy because you want to be able to work on those set plays especially the players on the same line as you so it's tough with different players coming in and out," Paterson said.

"The more you do it together the better the understanding you get, and when you do it with certain people they understand what works, and then we get to the next week and it's tough if those players can't play.

"It can be a bit of a bummer when you then have to work on new stuff with other players, but everyone on this team is pretty switched on and can pick it up pretty quickly so we've found a way to make it work."