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LOVE, ACTUALLY

Growing up on Sydney’s North Shore, we’d been an NRL family. Then in about 2011 or 2012, my brother started Auskick and we’d all go down to watch. Something intrigued me about the sport and I fell in love with it.

 

I’d play mock games in the park with my dad and my two brothers and then one day I saw an ad in the local newspaper calling for boys to join the Mosman Swans footy team.

 

There was a section that said ‘girls can play, too’. I was ecstatic.

 

I sprinted to tell mum and asked her to investigate. I was 12 or 13, so a little bit old for Auskick, but they got back to us and said, ‘Look, we don’t have a team for you but if you can get enough girls willing to train and play, then we’ll pay your registration for that first year and give you some spare uniforms’.

 

There were two of us there at the first session on the club’s open day. We had a bit of a muck-around and joined in with one of the boys’ teams. Gradually, there were one or two extra girls each week until we had a solid group of about 10 girls.

 

My mum had sent an email to everyone in her contact list who had a daughter my age, telling them that I had this weird, crazy dream to play AFL and asking everyone who was interested to help get a team together.

 

We were also telling friends at school. So word spread gradually and then it ignited like wildfire. It’s been pretty crazy. It was only six or seven years ago that we got that team together and already I think the number of registrations at Mosman Swans in the under-18 category is the same as the boys.

 

There’s probably about six girls’ teams - including two under-18s. In the first year they were struggling to just get one. It’s blown me away how much it’s grown.

 

When mum sent out the original email, she hoped one of the dads who loved AFL would be interested in coaching because she really had no clue what she was doing.

 

But the club was really keen on getting women involved, so my mum and another mum went along to a coaching course, mum got an ‘AFL For Dummies’ book and she did a few more courses.

 

 

It actually worked out really well because we were all learning together and mum was able to explain things to us in really simple terms that we could understand. We didn’t know what a shepherd was, for example, and if someone had come in and said ‘hard ball get’, we’d have been like, ‘Oh, sorry - what?’. But there were no expectations. We were all just playing because we loved the game.

 

The Mosman Swans joined the AFL Sydney competition in its second year. It was one of two new teams that doubled the number to four.

 

We got thrashed every weekend; we were happy if we were able to keep the opposition under 100 points. I don’t remember ever being upset about losing, though. Obviously I’m competitive, but we just had so much fun.

 

We ended up going around the circle and everyone shared their own struggles. It was very eye-opening to me because I thought I’d been alone.

 

Growing up, I played a bit of everything. Soccer, netball, basketball - the sports everyone played. Gradually, one by one, I dropped them in favour of playing more footy, at state level and things like that. There was no pathway in footy but I could never bring myself to drop it.

 

It did seem like a crazy dream. I’d say ‘Oh, I’ve just started playing AFL’, and people would be, ‘Oh, what’s AFL?’, or, ‘I didn’t know girls could play that, too’.

 

Or they’d say, ‘Why would you want to play that? That’s a boys’ sport?’ And I really couldn’t explain it. I just became infatuated. I was just: ‘I’ve got to play this sport, it’s the sport for me’.

 

We battled so much up here in Sydney but it’s really changed. Now when I say I play AFL, they say, ‘Oh, that’s great, we’ve been watching the AFL Womens’ season’. Everyone knows what you’re talking about and they know women can play.

 

It was perfect timing for me, really, that the league was introduced by the time I reached 18. I feel so lucky that I had the experience of being part of the inaugural season and I’m still young enough that I’ve hopefully - touch wood - got a long future.

 

I’m obviously so grateful to all the women who have paved the way for us to get this opportunity. I do regret that they won’t ever be able to fulfil their dream but also I’m a tiny bit jealous of all the young girls coming through that have been playing Auskick since they were about four and have some incredible skills.

 

By the time they get to AFLW hopefully it will be a full-blown competition, just the same as the men’s.

 

 

 

GIANT STEPS

The GWS guys have been extremely enthusiastic. Since Alan McConnell came on board as head coach, the guys have expressed a lot of interest in getting involved.

 

We had Heath Shaw helping us out last year and he was a very calming influence - I know, I wouldn’t have expected it, either! But when you’d come off and were a little bit stressed, he’d just be able to summarise really easily what you needed to do. It’s all that footy experience coming into play.

 

I was able to work with Shane Mumford a bit last season, which was really great. He came to a few training sessions and I watched a bit of footage with him before each game where he’d help me with what I needed to improve on, what to look out for, a few little tactics that I could bring to my game to take it to the next level.

 

Since I’ve been following AFL, he’s been one of the best rucks out there and he was my idol for a few years. Then here he is teaching me to ruck, so it was definitely a very surreal experience, but I learnt so much.

 

 

 

THINKING BIG

I was always tall. I was always pretty much at least a head taller than everyone else and very gangly.

 

So I didn’t really have a choice. When I rocked up to that first training, they were like, ‘Ok, you can play in the ruck’. Luckily I loved it, otherwise I might have been in a bit of strife.

 

I was always the tallest kid at school. At parties, I’m always a head above everyone else and I’m not a very good dancer, so if I’m dancing out of time it’s really obvious! I do unconsciously slouch a little bit - until my parents tell me to stand tall.

 

But the fact that my height - 190 centimetres - has been such a huge advantage in sport has almost forced me to be proud of it. I know that I definitely wouldn’t be successful without it. Hell, I wouldn’t even be playing AFLW if I hadn’t been so tall.

 

Being tall’s who I am, I guess. Without it, I don’t know who I’d be or what I’d be doing.

 

That’s my biggest weapon, so I’ve tried to use every millimetre that I have, especially with the taller girls coming through.

 

This season I played against Erin Hoare, who’s the tallest in the competition, and I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness, I’m playing against someone taller than me for once’. I was very surprised and quite nervous actually because I’d never played against anyone who was taller than me in any sport.

 

Being tall’s who I am, I guess. Without it, I don’t know who I’d be or what I’d be doing.

 

Every time you meet someone new, the first thing that comes out of their mouth is, ‘Oh, my God, you’re so TALL’. You’re just walking down the street and people will be like, ‘oh, my God, did you see that girl? SHE’S SO TALL!’.

 

It’s a bit crazy but you learn to brush it off and be, ‘Oh, yeah, I didn’t really notice that before, so thank you.’ It’s a bit of a joke now. I’m used to it.

 

I’ve struggled with a few things, so I’m proud that my height is something I can use to my advantage.

 

It helped me to become the All Australian ruckman. It’s just taken me a little bit longer to understand what a great thing that is.

 

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