MURRAY Bushrangers midfielder Julia Harvey travels up to three hours to get to a football training session or game.
Tie this in with two nights of netball training, a night of football training, a netball and football game on the weekend, as well as basketball commitments in summer, and you have one dedicated athlete. Behind every dedicated athlete is a dedicated family, and Harvey’s family pushes through the struggles of travelling to help her enjoy playing the sports she loves.
“We’re used to it now,” Harvey said. “We’ve had three years of travelling around with all different sports but some weeks it can be pretty hard. You get to the end of the week at school and you’re absolutely exhausted but it’s all worth it.”
Harvey began playing with the Murray Bushrangers in the second year of the program, unaware of the opportunity that girls had to play footy at a representative level. She admits that being selected was something she never saw coming.
“I never thought it was even possible,” Harvey said. “I used to always see the boys do it and think this is so amazing why haven’t the girls got that? “When I got asked, I was like ‘oh my god there’s actually a girls version’. “I jumped at the opportunity, I thought it was amazing.”
The small 15 year-old arrived at the Bushrangers excited but also slightly intimidated, as she was playing with and against some of the best female footballers in the state. Now in her final year of the program, Harvey reflects on the club’s amazing progression from struggling with numbers to overflowing with them.
“I was probably one of the youngest there so it was pretty hard at the start,” she said. “We barely got a team together and we used to get beaten by a lot so it was pretty tough at the start but it’s just grown so much since then.”
The Bushrangers went undefeated in 2017 and won three games this year but for Harvey, the enjoyment of the program comes from making new friends.
“I made so many friends, this year especially, like Claudia McKimmie and Liv Barber,” the Murray midfielder said. “There’s so many girls here that I didn’t know until I played footy and I’ve created amazing friendships just from a couple of weeks playing footy. I reckon that’s probably the best thing to take away.”
Among three sports, Harvey is also in the midst of Year 12 studies, with an aim to fulfill her childhood ambition of being a physical education teacher. The 18 year-old says her sporting journey has helped her to balance her impressive array of commitments.
“I suppose where I’ve grown up playing so many sports, I’ve probably learnt to manage my time well, especially with school,” Harvey said. “I try to work hard at school and so I can have time outside of school to focus on sport.”
She now has another sport commitment to focus on, as she has been named in the Vic Country squad for the upcoming AFL Women’s Under 18 National Championships.
With a full pathway in place for females to achieve their footballing dreams, Harvey encourages all young girls to join a program like the Murray Bushrangers.
“Make the most of it,” she said. “It’s such an amazing program. Like I said, you make so many friends and even footy wise too, you learn so much. I’d just take everything in because my time’s already come to an end and it’s gone so quick.”