Star Blue ticks off grand final ambition
Maddy Prespakis' first grand final was in Under 10s.
She was seven, and the only girl playing in the match.
The helmet looked huge - with a tiny bun poking through the back - and she was presented with a pink football after the match.
"I remember it was raining," Prespakis said.
"I got a pink footy at the end, because I was the only girl who played.
"I played all right, I think. I've still got the videotape, so I might have to watch that back. I just remember at the end I was really excited and didn't really know what to do.
"I showed all the girls the photos and they were like how old are you, four or five? I was like, 'no, I was just a really small seven-year-old'."
There was a stark difference between Madison and her teammates - not just her gender, but their aspirations with AFL Women's still almost a decade away and not even in the conversation.
"They all wanted to play AFL, and I obviously couldn't," she said.
Her dad, Damien, was her coach, and being forced to stop playing alongside the boys "was the hardest time in my life", Prespakis says.
When the Youth Girls pathway became evident, everything changed.
"It was a different road," she said.
"Now, I finally got drafted and that was the dream. My second one on the bucket list was to play in an AFLW grand final, and it's happening this weekend. It's pretty exciting."
She's grown up a lot over the last few months.
Taken with pick three by the Blues in the AFLW draft in October, the 18-year-old spent her first fortnight at training being driven to and from Ikon Park by Damien or her mum Jody.
She didn't have a licence, and while she'd felt ready to step up to AFLW, reality struck.
"Once I got drafted and hit pre-season with all the running and things like that, I really felt underdone," Prespakis admits.
"I didn't feel like I was up to the standard, especially when it came to my fitness. I worked really hard over the Christmas break for that, and came back and ended up beating my 2km time by 10 seconds.
"The running helped me a lot and is probably why I've run so well in games. I just feel so much more prepared.
"Before that, I was just going home and was constantly sore. I felt like I was so wrecked compared to everyone else around me."
The travel from Romsey, an hour from Ikon Park on a good day, was also tough, with Prespakis earning her driver's licence shortly after beginning life as a Blue.
"Once I got used to it, I was OK and then I just thought about it and thought everyone else was doing it, I might as well do it. It made me feel comfortable, because I wasn't the only one," she said.
The Rising Star favourite works casually at Rebel Sport, and getting recognised on the cash register has taken some getting used to, after playing ever game this season for an average of 20 touches a game.
"It's a little bit awkward (getting recognised), because I don't know them," she laughs.
"A few people have sort of said, 'do you play for Carlton?', but I brush them off a bit."
Gaining employment in the indigenous space of the football industry is the goal, with her mum Jody hailing from the Dja Dja Wurrung people in Bendigo.
Jody and Damien will be in Adelaide on Sunday, driving across with the Lever family - close family friends and the family of Demon Jake.
"Dad played a lot of footy … the only thing he didn't do was get drafted, and that was a little bit to do with injury," Prespakis said.
"I just wanted to overtake him and get drafted.
"He's helped me a lot. He's still my coach at home.
"When I run out on to the field, I always look for him or mum and look at them before the game starts and just have a little smile. Even during the game I like to look for them.
"Mum told me (that Dad) was a bit nervous last week, and they were a bit emotional after the game.
"To have them and my twin sister and little sister and little brother there in their little Prespakis jumpers, it's so good.
"They know that I've just wanted it so much - not only to play AFL but to make a grand final would be even better.
"I just can't wait for Sunday."