Mingenew farm kid Pippa McTaggart has lived the Australian Football League (AFL) dream of playing on grand final day - and she is only nine-years-old.
As the 2023 NAB AFL Auskicker of the Year, Pippa captained the Team NAB Auskick side, which ran onto the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) during half-time of the 'big dance' between Collingwood and Brisbane on September 30.
The mad West Coast Eagles supporter also had the honour of presenting Collingwood captain Darcy Moore with his premiership medallion at the post-match celebrations.
Living on an 8000 hectare grain and Angus cattle farm, Pippa is a proud Mingenew Bulldogs player and supporter, who plays in the North Midlands Football League Auskick competition and fills in for Nippers.
As is the case in many country towns, AFL has brought the McTaggart family, including parents Jamie and Carine and younger siblings Blake, 7, and Layla, 3, and the local community together.
While Pippa loved all sports, Ms McTaggart said she always had a particular liking to football.
"During the winter there is always a football match taking place on the front lawn with Pip's brother, cousins, friends or anyone else who visits the farm," Ms McTaggart said.
"On a couple of occasions I have walked into the playroom to find a 'coaching' session taking place with Pip as the coach explaining some set-plays on a whiteboard to the players - her siblings.
"The kids love collecting footy cards and watching the AFL games on TV, especially on Friday nights when we have pizza and watch the game together."
Growing up in a small rural town of about 500 people, Pippa said it was "really cool" to kick the footy in front of more than 100,000 screaming fans at a packed MCG on Grand Final day.
But what made the experience even more memorable was the fact she was able to share it with her brother Blake.
This year NAB recruited 12 Auskickers from across Australia to join Team NAB based on their enthusiasm, passion, teamwork and dedication to Auskick.
Each recruit was able to select one lucky teammate to join the team.
Pippa elected Blake and they were the WA players in the side.
Ms McTaggart said it was nice to see the siblings play together, after all their matches on the front lawn.
It was a whirlwind week for Pippa, who was left stunned after Geelong premiership player Joel Selwood and AFL Women's Richmond captain Katie Brennan, announced she was Auskicker of the Year after submitting a short video into the national competition.
"I got such a surprise - it was the best," Pippa said.
Mr Selwood and Ms Brennan shared the news while the McTaggart family was touring the MCG - but it didn't stop there.
Pippa was then invited to the Brownlow Medal count and, despite not being able to attend the event due to illness, she enjoyed practice beforehand with 2002 NAB AFL Auskicker Archie Stockdale.
'"I thought Nick Daicos (Collingwood) was going to win, but I'm really happy for Brisbane Lions' Lachie Neale, he's a great player," she said.
In the same week, she rubbed shoulders with her favourite player, West Coast star Luke Shuey at the Auskick awards.
Each member of the Auskick team was presented with their jumper by Mr Selwood, before having the chance to see the premiership cup.
Grand Final day fever kicked off with the traditional grand final parade, starting at Melbourne Park and travelling along the Yarra River before finishing at the MCG.
Pippa shared the experience with AFL Rising Star and North Melbourne defender Harry Sheezel on the back of a ute.
"That week we also went to the Footy Festival, it was so big and there were lots of people and lots of fun things to do," Pippa said.
"The parade was amazing, I have never seen so many people.
"Harry was really nice and he was born in the same month as me - his birthday is seven days after mine.
"The whole experience was absolutely amazing."
As part of her winning the competition Pippa also received $5000, and will have Mr Selwood and Ms Brennan as personal footy mentors in 2024.
When asked what she would spend the money on she responded with "a lot of things".
"I want to buy some footy cards and Lego and Eagles memberships," she said.
"I want to give some to charity and the Telethon, and my pop said that the $300 I was going to give him to fix his back could go to the Telethon too.
"I want to go on holiday with my cousins and I'm also going to save some."
Now the 2023 AFL season is done and dusted Pippa is looking forward to the return of cricket, however, that doesn't mean footy will be put on the backburner.
"I usually kick the footy everyday, we have a box of balls on the verandah," she said.
"I've loved footy for as long as I can remember.
"I started going to Mingenew games with dad, mum and my friends, and watching AFL on the TV.
"I just liked it from when I was born, I love playing and learning to play."
Already kicking goals in the sporting world, Pippa has her sights on one day becoming an AFLW, soccer or hockey player, or a cricketer.
And with her determination, guts and willingness to have a go, there is no doubt she will get there.
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