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Living in a tent to AFLW

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Living in a tent to AFLW

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If I think back to the 18-year-old I was, I had no idea. If only someone had told me that things don’t always come easy, that sometimes you’ve just got to persevere.

 

Travelling, having no money, you innately get a sense of belief that, no matter what, you’ll keep going. I told a Giants teammate this week, ‘Don’t wait for the penny-drop moment. Often it’s just a hard slog. Keep striving.’

 

I had an amazing childhood, growing up in the Flinders Ranges on a broadacre wheat and sheep farm on a couple of thousand acres. Lots of sheep, lots of cropping, me and my older brother Josh and younger brother Tristan.

 

We lived seven kilometres from a town called Booleroo Centre with a population of about 300, and pretty much everyone in the area was sporty.

 

Dad made us table tennis tables, basketball rings, golf blacks (sand scrapes instead of greens). We made a tennis court and a cricket pitch on the big grassed area and had a big cement roller that we’d curate them with, and in winter we’d bring out the footy and play ruck-ups and marker’s up on the wool bales.

 

I never actually played a game of football, but every recess, lunch and after school, I’d play footy with the boys.

 

It was beyond kick-to-kick – it was fierce competition. My guy friends still laugh at how competitive I was; it was sheep stations. You’d kick it out to the pack, everyone would go for the mark, then once it hit the ground it was all for one to see who could get it and kick a goal.

 

When I was in my early teens, I became a bit self-conscious.

 

Being the country, netball and footy were played together on weekends, and I’d play my netball, then go and kick the footy. I started to take notice of people commenting on the fact that I was a girl playing footy with the boys.

 

I felt really embarrassed, didn’t like the attention at all, so I just stopped. I didn’t want to be called butch I suppose, so I just wouldn’t kick the footy anymore.

 

I played tennis and basketball, but netball was my main sport. When I finished high school, I went down to Adelaide and played for the Cougars in the state league. I did quite well but never made national level.

 

There are parts of me that wish I’d persisted with netball, but getting some life experience took over.

 

My nanna had rheumatoid arthritis, and when I was about 10 she said to me, ‘You should be a physio’. I set my sights on that, and that’s what I did at university.

 

My male uni friends were kicking the footy one day and I joined in. They were like, ‘Oh my God!’ And it was still there, the ability, but I still didn’t like the attention that a girl kicking the footy drew.

 

I couldn’t shake the idea that it was something I shouldn’t be doing.

 

 

 

THE LIFE OF A BACKPACKER

I lived in Manchester for close to three years. I started out working in a pub, living off that measly wage, but once I started working as a physio I had money to travel.

 

I lived in random hotels with insomniac French, wacky Latvians, all sorts from all over the world. I travelled all over Europe, went to India and Nepal, Japan.

 

Even when I was settled and working, renting a room in a house in Manchester, I was effectively living out of a backpack. The less you have, the easier it is to get around.

 

I met amazing people, experienced different cultures. You learn a lot about yourself travelling, through the little hardships that come along. Sometimes you don’t have a lot of money, sometimes you don’t plan things as well as you might have.

 

Moments that seem so awful at the time, you look back and they’re often the things you remember most fondly.

 

The time I was living overseas, Aussie Rules footy didn’t register in my world.

 

My guy friends still laugh at how competitive I was; it was sheep stations.

 

I came back to South Australia at 26 and thought I’d become a proper adult, but it took me a long time to settle back in. I wasn’t sure I wanted to stick with physio, and ended up doing three-quarters of a masters of environmental management, partly in Adelaide and then Sydney. I fell back in love with physiotherapy thanks to some amazing physios who nurtured and mentored me.

 

Through an old friend I ended up at UNSW footy club, and played my first real game at 29. I remember thinking, ‘I wonder if I can still kick a football?’

 

I didn’t really even know all the positions – you didn’t need to in the school yard. I wondered if I knew all the rules.

 

I only played five games in my first season, then put together some proper seasons after that. At the time it was part of having a different life experience – living in Sydney, working as a physio, studying, playing footy, expanding my horizons.

 

 

 

LIVING IN A TENT

I met my partner Krissie in 2011 through football, in Sydney. We eventually decided to start a family, and when we moved back to Adelaide in April 2015, Buz was eight weeks old.

 

My family was in Adelaide, it was cheaper to live there, and we’d bought a house the year before that we wanted to renovate. Krissie is a carpenter and she took on the renovation herself. I wanted to start a physio clinic so that when I wanted to have a baby, we’d have a passive income.

 

So we arrived in Adelaide with an eight-week old and started a full renovation on a house – gutting it, removing ceilings, walls, the lot. 

 

The physio clinic had to be fitted out as well. We didn’t realise how difficult having a baby was, let alone everything else that was going on. Buz had really bad constipation, so he really struggled with his sleep. We were so tired.

 

We had a mortgage, were renovating a house and establishing a clinic. Financially, we were so stretched there were times we didn’t know if we could afford nappies.

 

It’s the toughest time of my life, the duration of it, the stress. But we had no other option, you just have to get through it.

 

I’d started playing footy for Morphettville Park, and in the second game I fractured my finger. That put me out of work for eight weeks.

 

At one point, at the end of the house renovation, we were living in a tent in the backyard – me, Krissie, 18-month-old Buz and our dog.

 

You don’t have any option – you can’t not fit out the clinic or leave the house with no ceilings or walls. You just have to get on with it. 

 

When we moved out of the tent and into the house, that’s when I started playing footy again. I finished the 2016 season well and nominated for the inaugural AFLW draft.

 

I was really devastated to miss out – at 35 I felt like that was it, my opportunity was gone. If I couldn’t get picked up by the Adelaide Crows, I thought that was as far as I’d go with football.

 

Krissie is my No.1 fan. She’s very biased. She was disappointed because she felt like I had something to give as well.

 

At one point, at the end of the house renovation, we were living in a tent in the backyard – me, Krissie, 18-month-old Buz and our dog.

 

After the draft, the SANFLW bobbed up almost out of nowhere, four teams competing against each other, coinciding with the AFLW. I was selected by Glenelg and was on the train-on squad for the Crows, which gave me a glimmer of hope. I had a good season and won the league medal with Glenelg.

 

On draft day last year, I was in a room in the physio clinic working with a patient. I could hear my computer pinging with Facebook notifications outside. At one point I went out and looked, and there were lots of people saying congratulations.

 

Being picked by the Giants obviously meant another big strain on our lives, but we worked backwards and decided it was a worthwhile dream to pursue.

 

Krissie’s sister is in Sydney and we asked if I could stay with her, which gave me stability being with family. We’d just lived through two years of hell, we just knew it would work out. Buz has great support around him, lots of love.

 

We’d worked towards making the business run itself without me, and we’ve done that.

 

Other than me, there are two physios and two massage therapists; it’s a small clinic, but it’s still running without me being there. Krissie works three days a week as a carpenter, and I work three days a week in an aged-care facility in Sydney.

 

On my days off, I do the business admin for the clinic – wages and all sorts. Footy training is generally four days a week with extra sessions, then there’s travel.

 

Buz understands what I’m doing up to a point. He was very excited the other day – I did an interview for the Giants’ website, and he was saying to Krissie, ‘Mum’s talking about me! Mum’s talking about me!’

 

He’s just turned three, so we’re going to have a little belated birthday for him this weekend when everyone is here for our game against the Crows.

 

Krissie and Buz are coming – I’ve only seen them once since I came back to Sydney in early January – and Mum and Dad and my brothers.

 

 

 

A 36-YEAR-OLD ROOKIE

The experience I’ve had at the Giants has been amazing from day one.

 

I never received this feedback directly, but word on the street was that I was too old, too slow, too unfit, not committed enough.

 

There was a huge part of me that was like, ‘Hang on, I can do this, I can commit.’ But there was also a part of me that was saying, ‘Well, can I? Am I going to get injured? Am I not going to be able to physically stand up? Will I handle being in a high-performance environment?’

 

There was a really big part of me that was like, ‘Shit, maybe they were right.’

 

But I’ve loved it. From the get-go ,the Giants were just really happy to have me here. They’ve never mentioned my age. They felt there were qualities I had that would be beneficial for the group.

 

I felt really validated. I never felt like they thought I’d fail, they only had the utmost confidence in what I could bring to the team. That makes you feel fantastic.

 

The program they’ve put together in all aspects – from the coaching to the medical side, the strength and conditioning, the values – they’re just such an amazing club.

 

As a footballer I’m very, very competitive. I love tackling, fighting to get the ball – that’s all that footy in the schoolyard, being at the bottom of the pack in marker’s up. I don’t have to be the best on ground but, no matter what, I want to persevere throughout the game.

 

My motto in my head when I’m playing is, ‘Stay in the game.’ I think that’s an age thing – when things aren’t going your way, you can either fall completely out of the game, or stay in it.

 

I think I have a lot of consistency and perseverance, and that’s something I’ve learnt over many years and many experiences.

 

I think the 14-year-old me who was embarrassed to keep playing with the boys would be really chuffed to see the 36-year-old she’s become.

 

I’d wish I’d embraced the skills I had and started a bit earlier. If you want something, you have to go for it. Sometimes it doesn’t take the path you think it will, but if you want it enough you’ll keep at it.

 

It’s that process of striving that’s really important. You learn so many things.

 

 

 

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