Spot Eliza Hynes at her local cafe and you could mistake her for any twenty-something Melburnian. Albeit at 183cm, a rather tall one. Having had a successful career as a volleyball player for Australia, as well as international stints for teams in Finland and Germany, the Bendigo-born 25-year-old is now pivoting to AFLW. 2018 will see her make her official AFLW debut for Collingwood.
We spent a day with Hynes to see how one of the nation’s top sportspeople spends a regular day.
Broadsheet meets Eliza Hynes for an 11am brunch at Heal.Thy Self Co. in Yarraville. Recommended by Hynes, it’s just a short stroll from the home she shares with her sister Bec and Bec’s fiancé Chris. She says the cafe’s menu appeals for its nutrition factor – as well as sweet raw food offerings. “I’m not vegan or vegetarian but I love fresh food,” she says. “It always gives you a bit of inspiration to try at home in your own cooking. I really like their use of fresh ingredients and seeing what treats they have.”
Along with the cafe’s lemon and lavender tart, Hynes is a fan of the classic smashed avo. But today she orders an acai bowl to start the day lightly. Once fuelled, it’s a short walk home to pick up her gear for the day’s activities. On the way, she’s stopped by the local fruiterer for a chat about neighbourhood goings on. “I love Yarraville because it’s such a friendly, family-orientated community,” says Hynes afterwards. “It’s good to see familiar faces all the time and have chats with the dress store owner or someone from the frozen yoghurt store. It’s like a little oasis.”
Hynes is particularly attuned to it. After spending the majority of recent years playing professional volleyball in Finland, she missed Melbourne.
“In Finland I was in a small town called Orivesi that had one cafe, one hotel and one sports store,” she says of her time abroad. “That took its toll mentally. It was such a cold and dark environment and when you’re training twice a day indoors, it’s a very routine and monotonous lifestyle. When I came back home I didn’t really know if I wanted to put myself through that challenge again. Volleyball is a year-in and year-out commitment, which makes it hard to build relationships and friendships.”
After a quick pit stop at home to grab her Collingwood backpack for the night’s training session, Hynes is off to the Inverse Float Centre in South Melbourne for her 1pm flotation. She says the sessions help relax both her muscles and brain. “It’s a meditation tool to make sure I’m continually thinking about the direction I’m going in,” she says. “If you’re in daily routine, you don’t escape from anything. My body has taken a bit of a toll from the running and physical side of sport, so it needs that rest.”
Relaxed and re-focused, Hynes sees a missed-call from Bec. She and Chris are keen to catch up for a coffee down the street at Giddiup. On the way, Hynes explains she grew up with a sporting family. She remembers her dad’s trophies lining the shelves of the childhood home (he was also a Collingwood tragic), and how her Mum, a netball coach for Bendigo United, helped Hynes excel in the sport as a youngster.
Hyne’s netball past is what led to her spot with the Magpies. “I was playing social netball in the Victoria State League competition and our fitness coach, Cecilia McIntosh, actually played in the Collingwood team,” says Hynes. “We were having a kick one day and she asked if I would ever be interested in playing.” After finishing her volleyball commitments, Hynes met with Collingwood and expressed her interest. “I’ve always been a Collingwood supporter so there were already ties to it,” says Hynes. “As soon as we had those discussions I knew I wasn’t going to turn back to volleyball. I was going to make Victoria my home again and build relationships from there.”
On the way to Collingwood’s training facility at the Holden Centre near Olympic Park, Hynes receives a call from her manager with an offer to attend a meet-and-greet event. She instantly says yes. “Being irrelevant scares me,” says Hynes. “I want to be relevant and influence other people and players. They’re my two biggest commitments to myself.”
Helping female players of the future is high on the young footballer’s priority list. “After our practice match against Melbourne last weekend it was really encouraging to see the amount of young girls coming out and wanting a photo or chat,” says Hynes. “I’m really amazed with how confident a few of these young girls are and that they see a pathway. I’m happy to put myself out there and be picked apart if it’s benefitting someone in their future.”
Inside the Collingwood facility it’s hard not to absorb the great sense of pride on display. Oversized AFL banners hang from the ceiling and each interaction Hynes has with fellow players or staff is warm. “We’re all fighting for the same thing,” she says of the comraderie. “We’re here to get the job done in this physically taxing sport. And mentally. I see our game as very smart and logical, you’re always looking for the next play or how you can evolve yourself to be a better performer.”
Before training, Hynes has a meeting lined up with a footy boot expert to measure her for a custom pair. This pre-training time is also used for players to prepare for the session ahead. “We can all have time to ourselves, whether that be for lunges, stretches or shoulder rotations to get those little muscles firing,” she says. “Without the little ones, the big ones don’t work. We need to make sure the body is ready to and muscles are loose.” Foam-rolling is her exercise of choice for the time-slot. “It’s kind of your own self-massage tool.”
The 6pm call-time for training rolls around. It’s looking challenging. “It’s a bit of a heavy night as we’re coming off the back of our practice match on the weekend,” says Hynes. “It’ll be match simulations and we’ll play man-on-man. We’ll practice our systems, how we want to kick the ball, how we want to attack the ball and all our strategies.”
With the drinks cart loaded up and the first aid kit at the ready, the team spills out onto the field. Boots are laced up and warm-ups begin. Fans watch the team move through their drills as dusk begins to descend.
For this rookie player adept at two very different sports, the season ahead looks promising. “I’m so happy and proud of our team,” says Hynes. “I’ve never felt so welcome. Every one of the girls has put themselves out there to make sure I’m okay both on and off the field and that I’m going in the right direction. It’s amazing how much confidence being in a group can give you.”