If it felt like a job interview, rather than a sales pitch, that's because it was.

Alicia Eva's first meeting with the GIANTS wasn't like most. While the club was desperate to persuade the Collingwood vice-captain to join its AFLW program, another factor was at play. The GIANTS wanted her to coach.

Even back then, in 2018, there were few more credentialed coaches in the AFL landscape than Eva. It had been nearly a decade since she gained her Level 1 Coaching licence at East Malvern and she'd since enjoyed stints in a series of pathway programs across the country.

So, the GIANTS launched an ambitious play. Bring in Eva to help their AFLW program, but also scope out her potential to help their senior men's teams down the line. That's why the club's women's coach, Alan McConnell, wasn't the only one showing her around its facilities. No, Leon Cameron was there as well.

"The conversation with Leon was awesome, because I felt like he was asking me questions that any head coach should be asking any coach they're interviewing to come on board. I didn't feel like this was a tokenistic role by any means. He hit me between the eyes with his questions," Eva told AFL.com.au.

"I wasn't necessarily able to find those opportunities in Melbourne at the time. But the GIANTS came knocking and said, 'Hey, your priority is to play first and foremost, but we're really interested in getting you on board as a coach and we want to help you develop as a coach'. I jumped at that opportunity."

By that stage, Eva had already been an assistant within the Calder Cannons' boys setup, had been the head coach of its girls side, had coached at Vic Metro level and been an assistant for the AFL's Academy team, had helped head up the League's National Talent program, had worked in pathway roles for AFL NSW/ACT, and had been the head coach and director of female football at the Simon Black Australian Rules Academy.

Since, she has only added more and more strings to her bow. Eva started at the GIANTS by working in the club's Academy system, playing a key role in the guidance and development of future graduates like Tom Green, Kieren Briggs and James Peatling.

As the club latched onto Eva's growing skillset, she was then promoted to working as the backline coach within its NEAFL team the very next year. Now, she is part of a unique situation that encapsulates three different programs.

First and foremost, Eva still wants to be defined as a key player and former captain of the club's AFLW side. But she is also a full-time development coach under Adam Kingsley at men's level, splitting those commitments with her role as the forward line coach of the club's VFL team.

"That's a sign of what her strength really is," the GIANTS' VFL head coach Wayne Cripps told AFL.com.au.

"She's got so much going on from an AFLW point of view and an AFL point of view, plus she does a lot of stuff in terms of how she represents the club off-field, then obviously she is a very important member of our VFL coaching team.

"The fact she's able to juggle those things and still do her job to a high level, that's the sign of someone who is going to have a pretty long career in coaching."

Eva's standout coaching resume extends beyond football, as well. Having been accepted into the AFL's Women's Coaching Acceleration program back in 2022, where she gained her Level 3 Coaching licence, she initially postponed her entry to complete her masters in psychology at Macquarie University. That involved a year-long internship to become a provisionally registered psychologist, which she now is.

While coaching isn't the sole reason for Eva choosing to finish her masters in psychology – a career in that field remains an option – it has certainly helped her life in football, with a number of colleagues noting her empathy, understanding and relationship-building among her greatest strengths.

"She's an absolute legend," GIANTS youngster Toby McMullin, who has been mentored extensively by Eva through the club's VFL program, told AFL.com.au.

"She's a great person, but I also feel like her coaching has been bloody good. She's a really great communicator and her knowledge of the game is really high. I feel like the way she connects with all of the players and the way she delivers feedback is really effective.

"She was really encouraging in regard to showing my traits and trying to show my AFL qualities. She was really positive around that. She wants the best for you."

Eva worked closely with the GIANTS' former caretaker coach Mark McVeigh during her initial role as the club's NEAFL assistant. She now operates under Jeremy Laidler with the forwards group, while she is also being mentored by Kingsley as part of the AFL's Women's Coaching Acceleration program.

That involves a regular series of meetings and leadership sessions with Kingsley, as well as the club's executive general manager of football Jason McCartney, that continues to shape Eva's coaching journey and builds on the skillset she's already acquired.

"She's very good at being able to build strong relationships with the players, which obviously enables her to challenge them but also support them really well," Cripps said.

"I also think the signs of a good coach are on gameday, they see it unfold in front of their eyes really well. It's obviously a real strength of Alicia's, which means she's then able to coach the players as it's happening but also provide really good solutions for myself."

Eva's psychology degree – combined with her extensive football CV – adds to her coaching pedigree, as does her playing journey. With 64 AFLW games, an All-Australian blazer and a best and fairest already under her belt, Eva will go around again later this year sans captaincy.

But, although she won't have the official title after five seasons as the club's women's captain – having stood down at the end of last season – Eva will still clearly be among the side's most influential players from a leadership perspective. Her on-field coaching will be just as important as the roles she undertakes off the park.

"You know what, at times I probably haven't got that balance between captaincy and coaching perfectly right. That's OK, too," Eva said.

"Sometimes, as a captain, your priority is your players and your playing group and how you play and how you perform. You've got to work with your coaches, but you're the conduit. You're not the coach.

"In terms of how I deliver messages as a coach, I feel like I've got an understanding of what's just played out on the ground or what decisions were going through that player's head at the time. I feel like it makes me stop and reflect a little bit on how I teach and what's needed at any given time. I'm still working away at it, but I'll continue to keep learning."

Eva's knowledge base is predominantly in men's football, having spent the majority of her coaching stints in either men's or boys' programs. Although the game remains tactically different to women's football – incorporating a series of different rules – she is now blending her experience into the AFLW level as well.

"For those who don't watch a lot of AFLW, we play with two less players on the ground. You need to get creative with numbers up at stoppage. You can bring numbers up to stoppage like we see all of the time in the AFL, but then you're giving up numbers ahead of the ball when we've already got less players out there on the same sized grounds," Eva said.

"We know that women can't kick the ball as far, so it becomes another link in the chain. That's where I like that idea of getting creative. Where do we want to use extra numbers? How do we use them? Do we keep five ahead of the ball? How do we want to move the ball?

"There are a lot of concepts that are the same. We all value contested ball and we all value defensive systems first now. But, at AFLW level, I like the idea of getting creative offensively in terms of where you put your numbers."

Eva's next steps in coaching are unclear, though. She understandably doesn't want to get pigeonholed into being a female coach working exclusively in women's football. However, it has often felt as though head coaching opportunities at AFLW level will be more readily available than those in the AFL.

Eva also notes the natural progression into senior coaching. Generally, one would go from a development role into an assistant role, then into becoming a senior assistant, before making the final step up into being a senior coach. But such positions, particularly on a full-time basis, are rare at AFLW level.

"Right now, or in the next few years, I'd love to step into a senior assistant kind of role while I'm still learning. The issue is, there aren't any senior assistants at AFLW level," Eva said.

"If I'm going to be a career coach and look after myself and look after life outside of footy, I'm going to need a role that's full-time and at the moment that's more likely to be in the AFL given where the AFLW is at right now.

"I don't like to limit myself. I say yes to a lot of opportunities. It's good to have goals and in terms of my aspirations I'd love to be the head coach of a side. But I'm really mindful of taking on anything too soon. It's got to be right for me and it's got to be right for where I'm at in life.

"For all the time I've invested into growing myself as a coach, I want to give myself that opportunity. Where and who and what that looks like, I'm not sure. We'll see what happens."

Eva is undoubtedly deserving of that opportunity. For all of her experience in a variety of diverse coaching and playing positions, she is now hoping someone sees the value in her ability to provide a different perspective on the job at hand.

"I think it's really important that AFL clubs continue to see real value in female coaches, and I hate that term, but in the women they bring into footy departments," Eva said.

"I don't try to emulate Kingers' style, I don't try to emulate Leon's style. I like to think I'm really authentic and have some really great relationships with a lot of the young guys that I coach.

"There's value in different perspectives and different ideas and different knowledge of the game and different ways of looking at it."