JUST last year, Madison Bennett gave up a promising career in soccer and discovered her passion for Australian Rules football.
She saw a link for the South Australia Under 18 trials and tried out, having never played competitive football before. Not only had she never played competitive football before, but Bennett was not even aware that there was a women’s Australian Rules league. Since she found out, she has discovered a passion for a new sport that does not look like it will die down anytime soon.
“I didn’t realise there was a women’s league at all so as soon as I found out there was a women’s league, I knew footy was my passion and I went straight to it,” Bennett said. “I did love soccer, I played in the state team. “But I don’t know, as soon as I started playing footy, I just found that passion was a lot bigger because I’ve always had a passion for sport and football was a great environment. “It’s an uncommon sport for girls so I think the passion for it is huge and I like that.”
In her first year of playing football, Bennett was successful in making the South Australian and Central Allies Under 18 sides, and played her first football game in one of the most daunting environments imaginable.
“My first ever state game was pretty much my first game,” the 19 year-old said. “It was straight into it with a very wide talent so I’ve come a long way since then. “I knew it was a state team and that had a lot of competition and talent around me so I took that on board and I just did what I could.”
Bennett also plays for South Adelaide in the South Australia National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition and Christies Beach in the South Australian Women’s Football League (SAWFL). While playing in these leagues, the 19 year-old believed she has improved and benefitted from the experience and advice from other players.
“I feel like playing SANFLW was a good opportunity because it’s that next step higher than local level,” Bennett said. “I really enjoyed playing against the older women and getting a lot of feedback from them and improving. “I think I improved in my kicking, like if you watch my first ever state game from a SANFLW game now, I think there’s a big improvement there so I got to learn off the girls and I’m really fortunate to get the opportunity to do it.”
Before, Bennett represented her state in soccer, having played since she was a teenager. She has been awarded a Player of the Tournament award before at a tournament in Sydney, but now has her sights set on achieving new heights in Australian Rules.
“As an individual, I would love to get drafted,” Bennett said. “Ever since I’ve started playing footy, it has been my goal. “I have looked up to the Adelaide Crows and seeing them and all the other teams, I’ve watched their games and it’d be an amazing feeling to represent one of those teams one day. “I’m not sure when that time will come but hopefully in my coming years, I’ll be able to play for one of those AFLW teams.”
In order to achieve this goal, Bennett has been keeping a close eye on some of the star players of the AFL Women’s competition.
“Erin Phillips does stand out really for me,” the 19 year-old said. “Chelsea Randall, even though I don’t play her position, her aggression towards the ball has really driven me to have more aggression to tackle the player and to keep going. “Daisy Pearce, because she’s quite small and I’m really small, I look up to her and go if she can do it, I can do it too.”