IF you have caught any action from the last two AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, chances a high-flying Queenslander in a helmet might have caught your eye. Zimmorlei Farquharson played her first championships at 15-years-old – three years ago – and is now entering her top-age draft year as one to watch from the northern state. Much like Roxy Roux at the 2019 championships, Farquharson will be the one that spectators turn to for something special, particularly in the air.
“My strength is my run-and-carry and my marks in the air,” Farquharson said. “When I was younger I did athletics too, I did a lot of running and that can be adapted to any sport so I was like ‘I’ll take it up in AFL and see what I can do with that’ when I was younger. “Sprints were my go-to thing, now (it’s) just running, getting the ball and carrying.”
The 172cm forward has no trouble using her athletic gifts to her advantage, but her natural instincts for the football have come over time. Farquharson said she has tried – and is still trying – a number of other sports for the enjoyment of running around with friends.
“Originally, when I was younger – around five, six, seven – I was doing soccer,” she said. “When I turned eight, Auskick came along and my brother went for it and because I was the little sister I looked up to him and I thought I’d go for it (too). “Ever since then I’ve been playing until now. I play (still) other sports. “I play basketball, volleyball and netball for school. “But my Mum wanted me to start up athletics again but the AFL just seems to be the go-to every time because it always clashes with other sports.”
Farquharson said the atmosphere was the reason for choosing football every time when there was a clash, and representing her state was a huge buzz.
“It’s just more entertaining and fun, being around people from different cultures and backgrounds and having the same perseverance and creativity in the game inspires me to get into the game more,” she said. “Representing Queensland means a lot. “Because I was born in the state, I live and breathe the state, and show what Queensland was really made for – being tough and really being a team sportsperson.”
Naturally by juggling so many outside commitments, it has been tough for the teenager, and she has had to negotiate with all those around her – who of course support her decision to chase her AFL Women’s dream.
“It’s very difficult, but last year I made the decision to move schools and go to a boarding school that had AFL opportunities for me to be in the game more,” Farquharson said. “They helped me with my school work and gave me time for school, AFL and different things and they always had my wellbeing first before AFL so if I felt like it was too much for me I would just step back from footy and just take a moment to just breathe in what I’m doing and then start over. “(My time is) usually all taken up by sports and travel. “My days are; Monday to Friday I go to boarding school, Friday afternoon I travel back home and do all my boarding school stuff and then I have footy on Saturday and Sunday. “Then on Monday at 6:30am I travel back to school. “It’s tiring but it’s all worth it, doing school, getting an education and doing sport with it.”
Despite her own personal abilities to juggle commitments, the Queenslander admitted she could not have done anything without the support of her family.
“My family is really supportive of what I do and they always have my back 24/7,” Farquharson said. “They always give me a call or text message to see how I’m going and especially because they take me to football training. “I’m three hours (away) from where we train and I’m two hours from school where I train so them being really committed to me and me being committed to them, always telling them what’s going on in footy and my personal life is really helping them help me.”
Already a member of the AFL Women’s National Academy having come through the program, Farquharson has aimed to improve her work ethic and staying in the contest longer rather than “being an observer”. Hailing from a town a few hours west of Brisbane, she understands the importance of sport within community and how it keeps everyone engaged.
“There was a bunch (of players) in Dalby (home town),” Farquharson said. “But since I moved to Toowoomba there’s so many different cultures and races and just a lot of girls playing footy and engaging. “Even though there’s only small clubs there, the girls really do try to engage and get into footy and really help out the community in any way, shape or form to spread the word out and come be a collective group in sport.”
Now in her draft year, Farquharson has a clear, ultimate goal – with an added desire for returning the favour.
“Getting drafted,” she said. “If I get drafted, (I want to) to inspire younger girls like me who are from rural areas to really try and engage with their sport and not give up just because you live so far away. “And also different cultures, being Papua-New-Guinean-Australian to really try and get other cultures involved in the sport, not just one particular group.”