CRISS-crossing the Victorian border has become a regular routine for Zara Hamilton, but the hard work is paying off for the talented Wagga teenager.
Hamilton has earned selection in an under-18 AFLW National Academy team to play a Victorian under-23 side at Melbourne's Punt Road on Sunday.
A strong national recent championships campaign, and consistent NAB League form with Murray Bushrangers, ensured the 17-year-old snared one of the academy spots left on offer.
Hamilton is excited at the chance to be mentored by women's football legend Daisy Pearce, who will co-coach the Academy side with former Collingwood player Tarkyn Lockyer.
She makes the five hour round trip to Wangaratta each Wednesday for training, and Melbourne for NAB League games each weekend.
Hamilton was selected in the NAB League under-18 team of the year on the wing. During the national championships she played for NSW-ACT in Sydney, then was selected in an Allies team to play Western Australia and Queensland.
"The AFLW Academy is announced in December, but they leave four spots open for girls who perform well in the NAB League and National championships. I was pretty surprised and shocked (to get picked)," she said.
"I started with the Bushrangers in 2019 and the ten round season has been good for my development, NAB League is a good level of footy.
"Daisy's a pretty big role model of mine so I'm pretty excited to be coached by her, as well as Tarkyn."
Hamilton also has one eye on the AFLW Draft, and a strong display at Richmond's spiritual home on Sunday will only help her cause.
"It has been a goal of mine for quite a while," she said.
"I was pretty happy with my NAB League season and national championships. We'll see how I go in this game and hopefully my hard work pays off, but we'll see what happens.
"If I just focus on having fun and not put pressure on myself, that's when I play my best footy."
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