JOANNA Lin was not convinced about starting competitive Australian rules football at first, despite a friend referring her to it back in Year 10. While the future Oakleigh Chargers’ talent enjoyed playing it during her school breaks at recess and lunch, it took a little while – and some extra prodding from her friend – for her to take the plunge and join her local club, Bulleen-Templestowe. When her friend first asked her to come join, it was more of a “maybe” and put it on the backburner.
“I was like ‘oh yeah’, I’ve played a bit in primary at recess and lunch and I always thought about playing it, but girls could only play up to a certain age, I didn’t really pursue it,” Lin said. “Then she was like ‘you should come to one of our trainings and see how that goes’. “I was like ‘oh maybe’ then as time went by, the plans you make with your friends but don’t end up happening.
“I didn’t really think much of it until recess and lunch, she came up to me and said ‘hey I mentioned to the team manager about you and they asked if you could come’ and I was like ‘oh woah that’s sick’. “Then I showed up for my first training at the club and that was just a really good environment. “I decided to play and went from there.”
It turned out to be a wise decision as Lin quickly caught onto the sport and described Oakleigh as “one big family” and definitely a step up from local football. As an outside running player, Lin has been thrown around in a few positions during her career.
“At local I played mainly half-forward so it was always going up the field and also considered through the midfield rotation as well,” Lin said. “I really enjoyed the running aspect, being able to run off players and just run down the field.”
Last year was Lin’s first season with the Chargers, and as a middle-ager, she was coming in with less experience than many others. Despite her lack of experience, she put together a terrific season culminating in her polling the most votes for her side at the NAB League Best and Fairest night and making Team of the Year.
“That was insane,” Lin said. “I was just playing how I played and so when it came to the night, I was just kind of confused what I was doing there because there were so many girls there that were really much better and everything so I was very confused. “But I was really grateful when I saw the votes and I was like ‘oh wow’ and I was the top one for Oakleigh. “It was really weird but very grateful for it.”
Not only has Lin been able to transition from one school footy into elite junior footy, but it is transitioning from one part of the ground to the other that really stands out.
“I think my strengths are probably the transition through the backline to the forward line because I’m kind of like on the wing,” Lin said. “The kick out, best position to kick to, that’s probably my best strength, in transition.”
Right now Lin is aiming to build her strength to impact more in aerial contests, because she said to become a better player she has to “compete better in the one-on-ones”. While her season was cut short this year, Lin has had plenty of favourite football memories, including the three-peat she won at her local club.
“It was really good to win three premierships in a row with those girls there and just the same (like Oakleigh) it’s like a family there, it’s probably my favourite memory,” Lin said.
After a huge first season, Lin earned a spot in the AFL Women’s National Academy, something she has cherished and was certainly not expecting when she was told last year.
“It was crazy because I got the email after my exam last year for maths,” Lin said. “I was kind of down because I didn’t go as well as I thought I’d go (in the exam). “Then I got the email for it and I was like ‘woah what is this?’ and I was with some of my mates and they were celebrating and I was in shock.
“Being invited to that, it’s been very helpful,” she said. “It’s been a great experience, been able to meet the other girls who are pushing to get drafted this year and become really close to them. “That has been a really good part of my career so far.”
Lin draws inspiration from those very teammates who help her become a better player and in return she tries to do the same as she strives to get to the highest level she can, whether it be the AFL Women’s or VFL Women’s, just making the most out of her footballing journey.
“I don’t know if this sounds a bit cliche but probably the people around me like my teammates (are my inspiration),” she said. “Watching them work on their skills and become a better player themselves, it pushes me inside to become a better player and I can help the team more as well.”
As for what being drafted next week would mean, Lin knows it would be something special for her in what has been such a promising journey thus far.
“It would mean a lot,” Lin said. “It would be like a lot of the effort and hard work that I’ve put into my footy throughout all these years has helped.”