WESTERN Australia (WA) representative, Sarah Garstone spent her junior career playing state netball and building up a promising career in that sport.
But after being asked to give football a go, she traded in the netball skirt for the football shorts, allowing her to discover a love of Aussie Rules that will stay with her forever.
When playing both sports, Garstone admits it was challenging and started to realise the negatives of being a dual-sport athlete. From training on Sunday mornings to rushing straight to a football game in the afternoon, the 18 year-old started becoming extremely tired, and injured. Thankfully, her mum helped her to make one of the hardest decisions she’s ever made.
“Looking back now, I don’t really understand how it was so hard because I love football so much,” Garstone said. “Because I was putting so much into footy and so much into netball, towards the end of the season, I was starting to get a bit injured. “I just was absolutely wrecked. “Then my mum was like ‘no more two sports! You have to pick one!’. But (it was the) best decision I ever made but so glad I did.”
The AFL Women’s competition was created in the same year as she made this decision, which ultimately swayed her to devote all her time to Aussie Rules.
“I just decided that it was just so exciting that there was somewhere to go with footy, and netball is so competitive,” Garstone said. “I decided that football would have better opportunities for me so I went with football.”
Garstone has grasped her opportunities in football with both hands, as she was selected to represent WA in the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. She admits that it’s not only the footy side of things that she loves about the game.
“When I got selected, it was just the most amazing feeling ever,” the 18 year-old said. “I’m just so honoured. “All my friends now are all footy friends and so many people I’ve met are so much more like me as well. “I’ve just connected with football coaches so much more as well. “Because I was always a rough netballer, netball coaches always used to say ‘you need to be more composed!’ but with football, they’re like ‘go, go! Be crazy!’ “It’s sort of expressed my best qualities, I love that.”
Garstone now gets to express her best qualities in the heart of Western Australian football, as she has made the move from her little country town, Gingin, to Perth. In Gingin, the WA representative played Auskick with the boys and admits that some parents had some reservations about her skills.
“When I did Auskick and stuff, it was quite normal,” Garstone said. “Up until I was in Under 9s, there was only two girls in my team, me and two other girls. “A few of the mums used to get mad because I was better than their sons. “They would just get really mad and be like ‘she’s not allowed to play!’”
At the time, it was a fun town to live in but as she got older, Garstone admits that she faced some challenges living so far out.
“Leading into this competition (AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships), we started in November and every single day I’d need to be in Perth,” she said. “Last year when I was in Year 12, from school, I’d have two hours to wait for training and I would have nowhere to go, I’d have to go to a friend’s house. “There was no other option so it was definitely the right thing to do.”
Living in Perth has not only been more convenient, but it has inspired Garstone to chase her dream of playing AFLW. Prior to the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, she wanted to ensure that she made the most of her last year representing her state.
“Obviously my dream is AFLW,” Garstone said. “Thinking about that just makes me so excited, it just makes me so happy. “I just want to work as hard as I possibly can to get there really. “Because this is my last year (of Under 18s), I just want to make every moment count really. “There’s only 15 minute quarters and I just want to do as much as I can and just show as much as I can.”
For now, Garstone is living in Perth with her grandma and making coffees for a living. But after having completed a successful Under 18s tournament and playing some solid footy with Claremont in the Western Australia Women’s Football League (WAWFL), the future looks bright for the talented teenager.