ZOE Prowse was certainly thrown in the deep end when she first pulled on the Double Blues’ jumper in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition a few years back. The then 15-year-old had come from a local football club and successfully earned a spot on Sturt’s Under 15s list, but soon found herself rucking against opponents twice her age.
“I started playing school footy so two of my teachers actually played SANFL and from there they just said ‘come try out at school’ and then from there one of my friends played at a local football club, went to that club and then Sturt invited me out just to do the Under 15s and then from that started playing in the women’s league,” Prowse said.
“It’s been a lot, so I started when I was 15 and I was thrown into the ruck pretty much straight away so I was pretty young, but it was exciting and I learnt a lot very quickly.”
Prowse held her own then, and it has held her in good stead for her junior football career, rising up through the South Australian development programs to begin training with the State Academy, something she has enjoyed. Playing and training alongside the best young talent in the state, Prowse said she noticed the difference in speed at trainings and Academy games.
“It’s been really good, been training once a week, really good to get around a different group of people, so used to training with our normal SANFL clubs, playing against each other and then coming together,” she said. “It’s a lot faster than SANFL so that’s good as well.”
Having been noticed from a young age as a prestigious talent, Prowse was the sole bottom-age AFL Women’s Academy member last year, and was joined in the Academy by South Adelaide’s Gypsy Schirmer this year. While the Sturt ruck said there was not much that had been done to-date (at the time of the interview mid-champs), Prowse was looking forward to future camps alongside the other members of the Academy.
“It’s been really good,” Prowse said. “I haven’t completed much yet, but after this trip we have camps so we can just stay here until Saturday and then we have another camp further later in the year, but hasn’t been a lot yet so far.”
Being an athletic ruck who has expanded her game into playing through the midfield or even up forward of late, Prowse noted her strengths as her timing of her jumps, and then contesting in marking situations. As for her improvements, Prowse was blunt about her most recent performance at the time during South Australia’s loss to Vic Country.
“Very simple but just my kicking,” she said. “In my last game my kicking was horrible, I really need to improve it.”
Now playing alongside plenty of youth at the Double Blues, Prowse said she was enjoying the youth influx at the club, as well as the experienced players who have aided in both her, and her teammates’ development.
“It’s been really good, so there’s a few other girls that are my age as well who are doing it, so having them around has been really good, but I’ve learnt so much off the older players and it’s just been really exciting,” she said.
As for an inspiration, the budding AFL Women’s talent – who said reaching the elite level was the dream goal – Prowse said she could not pinpoint a sole individual as inspiration, but rather a support network around her.
“There hasn’t been one specific person, there’s just people like my sister, as well as a few of my friends, as well as my parents, so little bits from a lot of people, not one person specifically,” she said.
Prowse and her Sturt side are hoping to continue their rise up the ladder and push for finals, currently sitting in sixth on the SANFL Women’s table with two rounds remaining in the regular season.