Melbourne defensive superstar Karen Paxman talks about the crushing end to the season and where to next for her and the club.
It’s been a massive season for the defender, who sits in the top 10 of highest average disposals in the league with 17 per game and was named in the extended 2018 All-Australian squad last week.
On a personal level, “I feel like I got off to quite a slow start. I hurt my back in Round 1 so I guess the following couple of weeks were maybe a little bit slower than what I’d hoped.”
What Paxman defines as a ‘slow start’ included 9 touches in the first quarter of the first game before injuring her back, and a game-high 21 touches against Adelaide the next week despite being rested for most of the last quarter.
“Otherwise I think that we all built on our foundations from last year at Melbourne, and the team came together a lot better despite the losses.”
After a shattering 2 point loss to the Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval in Round 7, Melbourne again missed the Grand Final based on percentage.
“I guess the overall feeling at the club at the moment is disappointment, but for me, I don’t think it’s sunk in yet.
"Although we were definitely hoping for that grand final finish, you just have to try and take the positives out of it.
There are seasons to come so you just start turning your mind to what next season might look like and learning from the negatives.”
She’s been inspired and impressed by the younger players at the club, including Claudia Whitfort, Katherine Smith and Eden Zanker.
“Eden had to sit on the sidelines for the first few rounds but came in in Round 5 against Brisbane. She just worked so hard and is such a determined person. Once she got that opportunity to play you couldn’t fault her effort. I think she’s going to grow into an amazing player.
“And Katherine Smith moving from the backline into the midfield this season - she’s not only such a talented player but a leader too and she’s only 20.”
Her favourite game this season was the win at home against Brisbane in Round 5.
“After having two losses in a row, I think that game we were able to turn things around a little bit and play the style of footy we knew we could play. It took the stakes out of the losses and turned those negatives into things we could improve on.
“I think that win was pretty important for us as a team, for us to be able to go forward and have that belief in the group. It set us up for the end of the season.”
And what’s next for Paxy? Well, uni is high on the priority list for the 29-year-old as she continues her social work degree. But also some well-earned rest is on the cards before getting back into training to return for Darebin in the VFLW.
“I’m still a little lost. All of a sudden you’ve got all this time.
"When friends ask 'do you want to come out for dinner?’ your initial thought is ‘oh no I can’t, I’ve got footy’.
"Now I can do all those things I’ve not been able to do for the last few months. Uni’s ramped back up now so I’ve got to catch up on the last couple of weeks where I’ve been a little bit slack.
"I have to start thinking about the VFLW season ahead but first and foremost a bit of a break, a bit of time to rest your body the next few weeks.”