Sophie Van De Heuvel drafted to Geelong
Sophie Van De Heuvel’s dream has come true.
Our VFLW young star has today been drafted by Geelong with Pick 2 at the AFLW draft and says she couldn’t be happier.
“Its such an honour to be picked by Geelong and be there for the start of their journey in the AFLW.”
“It’s such a surreal feeling, it’s been my dream to play AFLW and I’m so thankful for the opportunity and I can’t wait to get started”
This journey only started six short years ago. Sophie grew up playing netball, cricket and athletics before she started football, playing for the Ballarat Swans in the boy’s competition at age 12.
“It was a scary introduction to football, I was such a small girl back then, so I got smashed around a lot.” Van De Heuvel said.
“I eventually started to get more accustomed to it and sometimes the boys would be nice to me as they didn’t want to hurt a girl” Van De Heuvel said with a laugh.
At 14, Sophie finally got her chance to play with other girls at the Ballarat Swans Youth Girls.
“I felt a lot more comfortable playing against girls, but for me at that stage I was just there to have fun.”
Sophie’s love for football was always there. She was an avid Essendon supporter growing up, and her dad and brother both played football as well.
“I would always be at my dad or brothers’ games watching them when I was younger, and I remember dad taking me along to my first Auskick session and I absolutely fell in love with the sport.”
While a football career was never far away, it was cricket that took front position in Sophie’s early years.
Starting at just 8 years old, Van De Heuvel joined Golden Point Cricket Club, and it wasn’t long before she started turning heads.
In the under-14 VicSpirit Pathway Championships, Sophie finished with two unbeaten (retired) scores of 30 to lead her team to victory. She then headed to the U15 National Championships and was one of the best performers, with her coach saying she could represent Australia one day.
Later that year Sophie was named the best first year player in Victoria Premier Cricket, playing with Plenty Valley. Last year she competed at the U18 National Championships.
“Hopefully in the future I perform well enough to earn a WBBL contract and I guess any step above that would be a huge achievement.”
“When I was younger I was really invested in cricket and loved the game (still do), I was playing state cricket and I think that’s why I started playing football later than some of the girls, as my parents didn’t want me to get injured playing football.”
Eventually she was able to convince her parents to let he start really going after her footballing dreams when she joined the GWV Rebels in the TAC Cup.
“My coach for the first two years at the Rebels was Jeff Whittaker. He said I had some potential and could go far with my football, so I went and trialled and managed to get onto the team.”
“He was such a great coach for me, he was easy to learn off and always gave me feedback on what I could improve on.”
Sophie went on to win the clubs best and fairest in 2017 as a joint winner with Ella Bibby, but says she still had plenty to improve on if she wanted to get drafted.
“This year at GWV Rebels was a bit of a different experience as I was playing as a top ager, so I had to demonstrate a decent amount of leadership to the younger girls.”
“I felt I needed to improve again if I wanted to take that next step.”
Van De Heuvel did just that in 2018. After a successful campaign with the Rebels she was signed to play at Williamstown and stood out in our first ever win gathering 21 disposals and laying 7 tackles in an eye-catching performance.
Later that month she joined the Vic Country team at the NAB U18 National Championships on the Gold Coast, and Sophie was instrumental in helping Vic Country win the title, capping her carnival off with a best on ground display with 23 disposals and 3 goals against Western Australia.
“We obviously were very successful over that week because of the coaches we had and support network behind us.”
“The biggest thing I learnt while I was away was to recover well, whether that be sleep, ice baths, massages or just having a swim because it is a pretty long week and you have to be physically and mentally prepared.”
Van De Heuvel returned to Williamstown for the last few games of the season and says she used the chance to learn from some of her teammates on how she could get better. In our Round 15 clash against Essendon she showed her limitless potential with 12 possessions, 11 tackles and a goal.
“Jess Duffin, has been amazing to me in terms of always checking up on me and asking how I’m going. Playing the same sports is helpful as I can talk to her about both sports and she’s very genuine and a quality person.”
“Amy (Catterall) was also massive for me this year, I learnt so much from her and her guidance and encouragement were really valuable for my development both on and off the field.”
Van De Heuvel capped of her year being named in the NAB U18 All Australian team as well as TAC Cup Team of the Year honours to go with an AFLW Draft Combine invite.
At the combine she set the best ‘Running Vertical Jump’ score as well as the 2nd fastest 20m sprint.
“I had the best time at the combine, it was really nice to see some friends from other states but at the same time it was really good to be able to showcase my talent in front of AFL recruiters.”
“All of the girls did an amazing job and I think the future of the AFLW is very bright.”
Sophie will now play her part as she starts her career at the Cats and says she can’t be thankful enough for the support her family has given her.
“If it wasn’t mum or dad teaching me something new it was always my brother and I’m very grateful for the relationship I have with him to this day. Hopefully I can make them proud”
If Sophie continues with the way she conducted herself in her career so far, she will have no problems doing that.