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Future Doctor Campo pumped for WAFLW Grand FinalFriday, July 5, 2024 - 12:01 AM - by Chris Pike

EVA Campo is one impressive 22-year-old and while her ultimate goal might be to become the Carlton team doctor once she finishes her medical studies, her immediate focus is a winning day on Sunday in her third grand final since starting in the WAFLW at Claremont.

Campo grew up with her family in Kalgoorlie and it was soccer that was her sport of choice for 15 years, and that continued when the whole family made the move to Perth back in 2018.

She started playing at a state league level at Fremantle City in the NPLW and she was quite the promising prospect, but football was always in her blood and ahead of the 2022 season, she came down to Claremont.

The CFC monogram on the jumper reminiscent of that of Carlton certainly helped her motivation to want to join the Tigers and now three years later, and both joining Claremont and playing football at a WAFLW level is the best decision Campo ever made.

She played in the reserves premiership of 2022 with Claremont, then despite a broken arm along the way, was part of the team that made the Grand Final last year and now has continued to emerge as an exciting player on the rise with the Tigers in 2024.

Campo has played a significant role in Claremont reaching a third straight WAFLW Grand Final which will take place on Sunday again against East Fremantle at Pentanet Stadium, but making it all the more impressive is that she's doing it with a full on schedule and studying to become a doctor.

Excitement for Grand Final

Campo does have a full on life, but right now she can't hide her excitement over Sunday's Grand Final and the chance for the Tigers to make up for last year's loss to the Sharks that she was part of.

"SOOOO PUMPED. I love a grand final and the week leading up to it. It's all so exciting and especially a WAFLW grand final…. it has gotten so much popularity and interest over recent years and all my non-footy friends love to get around it as well," Campo said.

"My friends and family, if they’re not in Perth, watch on the TV too so that’s pretty cool. so very keen but always a few nerves too, I try not to dwell on it too much because in reality it's just another game against an old foe we know all too well."

Full on life studying to be a doctor

As a 22-year-old and trying to play football and everything that goes into that, trying to keep up your social life and working enough to have enough money to live off would be more than enough.

However, Campo is in the middle of her medical studies right now and to say that it's full on would be the greatest of understatements.

Campo isn’t quite sure on the medical field she wants to settle on just yet and she doesn’t need to make that decision yet either until she gets closer to becoming a fully qualified doctor.

There are options ranging anywhere from working in sport and Carlton being the dream, to being a sports surgeon or any other number of areas she could pursue, but right now she's just embracing the ride and learning as much as she can.

"I am a second year student doctor at UWA, when I finished high school I decided that I wanted to do medicine. I think it would be really cool to be able to have a mix of medicine and sport in my professional career," Campo said.

"I’m not set on what kind of doctor I want to be but maybe like a sports surgeon (or I might request specifically to be Carlton’s team doctor).

"I’ve just finished up on my surgery rotation and it has been really inspirational, being able to shadow the surgeons is a real privilege as well as being able to talk to people who are going through some of the worst times of their life… it’s really nice to be able to have a chat with someone and it making their day just a little bit better.

"Very humbling, emotional but rewarding. I find that a lot of the patients love to chat about footy and they get excited when I say that I play too. Some of the surgeons also follow the footy so I make sure I'm up to date from the weekends results (which isn’t too much of a chore because I watch just about every game).

"I have been trying to juggle placement and footy at the moment. Its full time placement Monday-Friday. Some days I’m at the hospital from 6-6 and then go to training. (unpaid eeeeeek) The days fly by because I'm learning so many new things and it's all so interesting and then I get to go to training and run around / exercise / do what I enjoy for a couple of hours."

Taking the leap to play WAFLW

Campo had never really considered playing anything but soccer until she got to Perth and might have been looking for something a little different even though she was enjoying what she was part of since joining Fremantle City after the move from Kalgoorlie.

"I’ve played soccer since I was about four up until I was 19. Before footy I played soccer for Fremantle City in the NPLW," Campo said.

"I always loved playing soccer, I met some of my best friends playing but I always felt like I wanted to play footy at some point. My family and I moved from our hometown of Kalgoorlie to Perth in 2018 so that my brothers and I could try and play sport at a higher level.

"I grew up in Kalgoorlie and sports were always a big part of my childhood. We mainly played soccer and my brothers played footy too. I always played lots of sports including netball, basketball, touch rugby and athletics.

"I was able to compete in a few state teams and travel interstate and overseas a few times which was always a cool experience."

When Campo did decide to try playing in the WAFLW coming into 2022, she didn’t follow her brother Nick who is now playing colts at South Fremantle. It was a combination of Claremont's proximity to the University of WA, and that CFC jumper that won her over.

Three years later and it's one of the best decisions she ever made.

"I am a huge Carlton supporter and when I decided that I wanted to try footy I think I had an affinity for the Claremont guernsey," Campo said.

"I also saw a post on the Claremont women’s footy club Instagram page saying that they were having preseason trials and that girls of any playing level could come down, even if they had never played.

"It all just fell into place really, all the players, coaches and staff were extremely welcoming when I came down to trial, I think it helped that I could kick the ball alright as well. The culture at Claremont has been a big part of why I continued to play footy.. I have always watched footy growing up.

"I used to love Saturdays watching country footy in Kalgoorlie and watching my brothers play. It never was a thought to me that one day I could play too (or better than them hahaha). My brother plays for South Freo colts so we have a bit of a rivalry there too."

First three years of WAFLW to savour

While there was a lot to learn to make the leap to playing in the WAFLW coming from her soccer background, it's not as if football was foreign to Campo given she'd been kicking the oval ball all her life back in Kalgoorlie and been around the sport.

So she took no time making that leap and played impressive football in that 2022 season to play in the reserves premiership along with making six league appearances as part of a team that went on to win the flag.

Then despite breaking her arm, she started and finished the 2023 season in strong fashion, and now has gone up another gear in 2024 heading into Sunday's Grand Final.

"Last year I only got four games into the season before I fractured my wrist so I missed a decent period of footy there," Campo said.

"I got back into the side around Round 15 and played all the finals series. Getting a whole season under my belt this year has definitely helped me play more consistently and gain more confidence in my footy. I felt more prepared and stronger coming into finals this year.

"I have been very lucky during my time at Claremont. Winning the reserves premiership was one of the best feelings and I got to do it with the best bunch of girls. It was only my first year of playing footy and I just clicked with the girls early on.

"Two years on now I’ll get to play in a third grand final with a lot of those same girls, it’s pretty special to me. I am very glad that I took a chance after quitting soccer three years ago and giving footy a go."

Chance to make up for last year

While Campo embraced the opportunity of making that Grand Final team with Claremont last year, being so close to that premiership and falling short isn’t a feeling she wants to experience again, especially not this Sunday.

It just happens to be that it's against the same East Fremantle opponents and Campo now can't wait for Sunday to arrive with the chance to get one back on the Sharks not only for last year, but two weeks ago in the second semi-final.

"Feeling so grateful and lucky that we have made it to a third grand final in a row but it is off the back of all the hard work everyone has put in this season," Campo said.

"The loss last year was tough for everyone, it was sad to finish the season on a sour note after having such a solid season, going undefeated. This year has been a bit different, we lost a few games mid-season and we really had to get to work to finish the back end of the season strongly, I think we definitely got there and we still have even more to give.

"The standard of the WAFLW has definitely reached a new level across all the teams this year which was something we embraced and we learnt a lot of things about ourselves in the process. I think we have learnt lots from our wins and losses and it has made us an even better team coming into finals.

"Both finals we played against West Perth and East Freo were quite challenging, I think that’s definitely helped us gain momentum coming into the grand final. This season was all about learning and trying new things and we can’t wait to get to work this Sunday and have some fun."

Lessons from last year's Grand Final

With Campo having now had that experience in a WAFLW Grand Final previously, she somewhat knows what to expect now on Sunday and hopes that she gets to celebrate with her teammates by the end of it.

"The experience of playing in that grand final was very cool and something I never take for granted," Campo said.

"It was one of the first times I’ve played in a losing grand final so I wasn’t a fan of that experience but I have been very lucky that in my long footy career (three years) I have always got to play in a grand final.

"Winning the reserves premiership in my first year (2022) was one of the best feelings and the fact I got to do it with an amazing bunch of girls made it that much better. Now two years on and I get to play in a third grand final with some of those same teammates is something I'm very grateful for.

"This would be my first league premiership if we get the job done on Sunday so I have an extra level of hunger coming into the game, especially off the back of last year's heartbreak. We play our best footy when we're having fun so we will be coming out to play on Sunday with a grin on our faces and fire in the belly."

Rivalry with East Fremantle

Campo has now played three years in the WAFLW competition and that saw her play in the reserves decider of 2022 against East Fremantle, then the WAFLW Grand Final last year against the Sharks and now it's the same opponent again this Sunday.

She doesn’t know any different to having East Fremantle as Claremont's big rival in the competition.

"I’ve faced them in all three big dances so the rivalry is real. every time we play them it feels like it's another mini grand final because there’s always a few extra nerves and a bit of extra fire," she said.

"They are a good side and have some very talented players but I have full faith in our entire side and our game plan and if we bring our best footy to the table, we will be pretty hard to stop. We just have to be switched on from the start and come ready to play."

Dual Dhara Kerr Medallist teammate

One teammate Campo will be glad to have on her side especially on Sunday will be Jayme Harken. The gun midfielder made it back-to-back Dhara Kerr Medals by winning the league's fairest and best award on Monday night, and Campo has nothing but admiration for her.

"Jayme deserves every accolade that comes her way. You only have to watch her at training for 10 minutes to know that she is one of the most hardworking athletes in WA let alone the WAFLW," Campo said.

"Back to back Dhara Kerr medals doesn’t even surprise me at this point because she’s once again had such a consistent season, dominating in the midfield. However I know her biggest goal is to win a premiership for the tigers and she will give her all on Sunday to do that."

Learning from inspirational teammates

You don't need to be around Campo long or spend much time talking to her to realise that she is a bundle of energy.

That's exactly how she plays her football too and that makes her quite the excitement machine on the field, but she is embracing every chance to learn from her more experienced teammates all the time.

"The most fun part is getting to experience all the highs and lows with a bunch of amazing girls," Campo said.

"There are so many inspirational women in the team and at the club and it’s so special to be able to have the best time with them all. I could talk about each and every one of them and what they bring to the club but it would take too long.

"The Ortlepps, Adele Arnup, Kate Orme, Kobi Nichols, Jayme Harken. All my role models. The list goes on however. footy is so fun for me I think because I get to incorporate a few of the different sports I've played all into one game.

"I like the way the game is played, I like kicking the ball long and trying to take good marks and kicking a snag if I’m lucky. My goal is to take a specky one day hahaha I've been close I'd like to say a couple times. I like to get a cheeky soccer in a game from time to time as well."