South Australian (SA) defender, Jaslynne Smith was drawn to Australian Rules because of the sport’s physical aspect.
“I think I just liked the physicality of the tackling and watching it on TV,” she said. “I’d always really enjoyed kicking with my Dad so I just thought it would be really fun to give it a go.”
She says there’s nobody who articulates the physicality better than Adelaide Crows midfielder, Ebony Marinoff, who is inspiring Smith to achieve her dream of playing AFL Women’s.
“She’s (Marinoff) a gun footballer and she’s pretty much followed the same pathway as us girls,” Smith said. “She’s a really good representation of how the state pathways can develop and potentially you can become an AFLW player.”
Smith’s AFLW dream stemmed from kicking the football around with her Dad. After telling him she wanted to take up the sport competitively, he got right to work and helped his daughter play the sport she loves.
“So I just watched footy on TV as a kid and just always kicked in the backyard with my dad and I guess one day, I literally said to him I want to play,” Smith said. “Then he came home that night after googling some teams and he came home with a team that I could play for. “I’ve been playing for the last four to five years.”
Smith says her friendships have kept her in the game, as well as her enjoyment of the sport.
“I guess it’s just the friends you make,” the South Australian defender said. “Some of the relationships you make with your teammates, they become some of your really good friends. “I guess I still also really enjoy playing. “I want to see how far I can potentially get with my footy.”
Her goal to go as far as she can with Aussie Rules was inspired by the creation of the AFL Women’s competition in 2017. This ignited the hope in Smith to take her football career beyond club level.
“I think since then (AFLW being established), you’ve been told that you’re at the right age and its genuinely in reach,” Smith said. “If you work hard, and continue to develop, I think you can make it that level so I think definitely since the AFL Women’s started, I’ve really wanted to go.”
Smith has already enjoyed matching up against some bigger bodies in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s league this year. She admitted that it was challenging at first, but she found her feet very quickly.
“It’s hard at first, it’s hard to get used to but once you’re there, you sort of just get in and under” the 18 year-old said. “I think it’s definitely helped, coming back to Under 18s. “You can bring more of it (physicality) to under 18s because you’ve been around some of the bigger bodies”
Once she got used to the physicality of the SANFL Women’s, Smith got to play in a premiership for her side, South Adelaide, which is one of her favourite football memories.
“That was a really special moment and we all worked really hard throughout the year and in the pre-season, so getting the Grand Final win was something special,” she said.
Smith has also enjoyed playing in some high-standard Under 18 games for South Australia and the Central Allies. She believes that the standard has increased each year and attributes this to the growth of female football.
“The standard has increased heaps and even just back at clubs and stuff, the amount of participants in the club and amount of teams has just risen so much,” she said. “That’s really helped to develop the standard.”
Under 18s football has also been beneficial for Smith individually, as she went from a utility to a defender.
“I initially didn’t have a position to play in, I sort of just played anywhere,” the Central Allies defender said. “Then in my first year of state with SA, our coach threw me in the back line and I sort of just played there ever since. “I think I’ve just become a bit more experienced as well, playing at a few national championships.”
This year, she and her South Australian teammates combined with the Northern Territory players in the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. Smith said that although there was limited time to get to know the players, she enjoyed the experience of playing with them on the Gold Coast.
“When you first come, you have to really bond quickly and you have to really get to know each other to then perform on the field,” she said. “It’s been great getting to know the NT girls.”
Like every young footballer, Smith is eyeing off a career outside of football to keep her options open.
“I think I want to go into the health field, I want to become a physio,” she said. “That would probably be the career of choice but anything sort of in the health field.”