TRAVELLING hours on end to training and matches might be tolling for most teenagers, but for Tamara Smith, she is accepting of the fact that success does not come without sacrifice.
The Murray Bushrangers midfielder has enjoyed a good season in the TAC Cup Girls competition, named the Bushrangers’ best in their final two games, following on from a strong finish to the year. The 17 year-old Mooroopna product is less than a month away from turning 18, is studying Year 12 and travels at least two hours return for any football commitment.
“My home club’s an hour away from where I live,” Smith said. “So that’s just local, so training is an hour there and back, and then games are a minimum an hour away. “Then Bushies is an hour and a half travel, so it’s heaps, but your parents are committed and you’re committed, and it’s really worth it.”
That hour and a half travel does not include away games in the TAC Cup Girls competition, including a round eight trek to Warrawee Park in Oakleigh. It is a tiring lifestyle, especially for someone in the final year of their school studies and trying to source income and play out their dream.
“It’s pretty tough, I don’t live in the town I go to school in,” Smith said. “So I travel there every day and then there’s footy, trying to get a part-time job and turning 18 – it’s all happening all at once. “You’ve just got to learn to work around it because footy’s your life. “It just never stops. “Once you’re committed, you’re committed so you just find a way.”
So what made the talented midfielder choose football?
“I have a very big family,” Smith said. “I have six brothers and my parents ran Auskick since I was in about Prep, so I was kind of straight into footy. “I did Auskick until I was about 12, and then I started playing with the boys for four years, and then when I stopped I had to go find a girls competition and then it all grew from there, and here I am playing for Murray Bushrangers.”
Smith said she had enjoyed the extra four rounds of the TAC Cup Girls competition, which despite not ending the way the Bushrangers had hoped after an unbeaten season last year, still gave the players plenty to enjoy throughout the season.
“I’m really happy with the longer season, you get to verse more of a variety of teams and kind of see what works well with your teammates and how they play under different conditions and things like that, so I really enjoyed that,” she said.
There has also been a noticeable improvement in the standard as a whole at both TAC Cup Girls, and local level as more players flock to the competition in the hope of living out their dream now the AFL Women’s is a reality.
“Absolutely [it’s improved], I remember when I first started playing local footy and there was like five teams and they weren’t very strong,” Smith said. “You showed up and you got a game. “Now you pick a side for the week and you’ve got your better players and the standard has just grown huge, and the game has grown – it’s incredible.”
Now Smith has her sights set on the National Under 18 Championships, with preparation beginning on Sunday – just one day after the TAC Cup Girls Grand Final – with all the Victorian players training together at Ikon Park, before a second training session at Windy Hill on June 3.
“[I’m] nervous but excited,” Smith said. “I’m excited for the next step, and to play against even more talented girls, I can develop my own skills and learn how to hold my own.”
Smith rated her leadership and ability to be clean with the ball as her strengths, while aiming to improve kicking on her opposite foot as well as greater composure with ball in hand and not blazing away.
She hopes continued improvement can help her remain in the spotlight in order for her to chase her dream, one that has only become a reality in the past few years.
“AFL has been my dream since I was a little girl, so for it to be a real opportunity, I just want to go for it,” Smith said. No doubt many in Mooroopna will keep a keen eye on her progress.