Tessa Lavey tackles two elite sports after joining the AFLW

Tessa Lavey is still on cloud nine after being drafted by AFLW side Richmond on Tuesday night. The 27-year-old Olympic basketballer is a lifelong Tigers supporter. Picture: NONI HYETT
Tessa Lavey is still on cloud nine after being drafted by AFLW side Richmond on Tuesday night. The 27-year-old Olympic basketballer is a lifelong Tigers supporter. Picture: NONI HYETT

Tessa Lavey readily concedes, had football been a pathway option as a youngster, her elite sporting career may have panned out much differently.

But the 27-year-old is not one for regrets, even more so now that her AFLW career has taken flight.

Lavey became one of three new Tigers after being selected by Richmond with pick 43 in Tuesday night's national women's draft.

The 2016 Olympian and Bendigo Spirit WNBL star is joining the club she has supported since early childhood, making her shock move to the AFW even more sweeter.

While some may have been caught off guard by her decision to branch out into a second elite sport, Lavey said she had long harboured ambitions of joining the AFLW since its inception

"I am a massive Tigers fan and then AFLW came along, ever since that moment it's been in the back of my mind," she said.

"But I've always been very committed to my basketball, so it just sat in the back.

"Recently, times have changed, like COVID, everything that has happened in my life, you sit back and ask where you really want to be in life.

"I spoke to my agent ... it's something I've thought long and hard about.

"To have actually made it, it really made me think I had made the right decision.

"Moving forward, I'm really excited I get to be part of such a great club."

For Lavey, who is chasing selection in the Australian Opals squad for next year's rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games, the title of 'dual-athlete' is one that sits comfortably with her.

Which is why preparations for the 2020-21 WNBL season with the Spirit are continuing in earnest.

The star point guard publicly thanked Bendigo Basketball, her WNBL team the Spirit and NBL1 club Bendigo Braves for their support and encouragement during the AFLW process.

"We are going to try and make this work. 'Dual athlete' is a thing now and for me and every other person out there it's possible," she said.

"It will be a great balance moving forward, but they've been very supportive, which I'm so thankful for.

"Richmond has been very supportive of that too.

"I'm looking forward to the next chapter of my life and working hard."

Lavey, who has played just the one season of football - against the males - as a top-age under-14 at Casterton, said she had every confidence of being able to make the transition to AFLW, while following in the footsteps of other dual-code athletes.

One in particular, WNBL basketballer and the Tigers' inaugural AFLW best and fairest, Monique Conti will be a new team-mate.

"I've already chatted with Mon and seen how it's worked for her," she said.

"But I'll reach out to others and make sure I get some idea.

"I am sure I will be shocked at first, but I am prepared to work hard. I'm looking forward to it."

If there's one thing her WNBL and international basketball opponents know about Lavey it is how determined she is on court.

It's a trait the new Tiger will bring in spades to her newfound career on the AFLW field.

Tessa Lavey after the Queen Elizabeth Oval on Thursday.Picture: NONI HYETT

Tessa Lavey after the Queen Elizabeth Oval on Thursday.Picture: NONI HYETT

Reflecting on her sole previous season as a junior footballer, Lavey believed there was little doubt football would have trumped basketball as her chosen sport, if today's opportunities existed.

"I have four older brothers, they wouldn't let me kick to them unless it got into their hands, so I got taught the hard way. If I wanted to be involved I had to kick straight," she said.

"I think I would have (pursued football).

"Basketball is a love of mine and I still love it; I don't want to give that up.

Tessa Lavey in action for the Bendigo Spirit. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Tessa Lavey in action for the Bendigo Spirit. Picture: DARREN HOWE

"I'm not ready to give that up.

"I just hope moving forward that can work."

Lavey, a championship player with the Spirit in 2013-14 and a Comnmonweath Games gold medallist in 2018, is the fourth past or present Spirit player to enter the AFLW system.

She follows former players Kerryn Harrington, who initially signed with Carlton as a rookie-listed player in 2017 and was co-captain of the Blues in 2020, Anna Teague, who played with Melbourne and Geelong, and Chantella Perera, who was drafted by West Coast in 2019 and played five games with the Eagles during the 2020 season.


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