GREATER Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ defender Georgia Clarke has had a whirlwind few years of Youth Girls football, returning to the game after time out given the lack of opportunities in her area. She chose to focus on other sports, and just played football at school, ensuring that her love for the game was never lost.
Since she returned to the sport, she has gone from Youth Girls to TAC Cup Girls to AFL Women’s Academy and Vic Country, representing Victoria at Etihad Stadium last year for the Under 18s game against the Allies.
“I probably started Auskick when I was five/six years-old so I went through that program and loved every bit of that,” Clarke said. “(I) didn’t care if I was the only girl. “Then I never really moved on to under 12s boys footy, or stuff like that but I always stayed doing school footy through primary school, and then I had a while off footy and then I picked it back up in Year 9 when Youth Girls started to come around in my area. “Then that was with the Rebels and I’ve been with the Rebels for three years now.”
Clarke said girls football was developing, and the intensity, as well as the professionalism around the game was continually growing, giving others opportunities to follow their dreams.
“Programs like these, the TAC Cup back five years ago, weren’t that big,” she said. “More and more girls are actually wanting to play this as a sport professionally, not just as a little laugh. It’s like proper professional now.”
Clarke said she noticed the change within her own club as the competition for sports got more and more competitive.
“Yeah every year I reckon the team changes obviously getting more professional and just realising that TAC Cup is something special to be a part of.the intent is more and more each year,” she said.
For Clarke, the competition means she has to continually evolve her game, something she has been working on since returning to the sport. She said her knowledge from other sports has helped her adapt to situations on the field, and have improved her ability to compete even more so than before.
“My ability to read the play which comes in handy as a defender,” she said. “I find that’s come from other sports such as netball and basketball. “I feel like I can bring that to my game and that’s probably my strongest part. “(I have learnt to) use my strengths in the game, realising what I can and can’t do and just using them to my ability and stuff like that. “Using my height for example, I never really thought about it and I actually decided to use it a bit more.”
Clarke could not be more thankful of the opportunities she has been afforded at the Rebels and through the AFL Victoria programs, being a key member of the AFL Women’s Academy, which led her to running out on GMHBA Stadium earlier in the year and taking on the Geelong VFL Women’s side – a team she would ironically join by the end of the TAC Cup Girls season.
“That’s (AFLW Academy program) been amazing,” she said. “I’ve grown so much being in the academy and it’s shown each year, with this year being my second year, it’s definitely shown how much I’ve improved in those two years and four camps.”
Now at Geelong, Clarke has enjoyed a match already, holding up the defensive end, alongside a familiar face in GWV Rebels Female Talent Manager Krista Woodroffe. The pair have played alongside each other in the defensive end, and it has helped Clarke adapt to the club.
Focusing her efforts on the upcoming AFL Women’s National Under 18 Championships, Clarke is excited about representing Vic Country on the Gold Coast. Hopefully she can add to her fond memories, but there is one memory that stands out beyond all others.
“It would have to be playing in the first State of Origin game, Under 18 game at Etihad Stadium,” she said. “I found that pretty special.”
The National Championships will cap off a fantastic year for the defender, taking out the Rebels best and fairest award for 2018 ahead of Sophie Molan and Lauren Butler at the recent count. The National Championships Series Two will begin on Monday, July 9 at Metricon Stadium.