Category: Feature Articles

Future bright for pre-listed Sun

FOLLOWING a more traditional pathway to many of her contemporaries, Queensland’s Charlotte Hammans is one of the few Under-18 young guns who does not need to wait until the October AFL Women’s Draft to discover her future. The talented defender and outside midfielder, who is capable of playing other roles, was prelisted by the Gold Coast SUNS who enter the league in 2020. Alongside Queensland teammates, Ellie Hampson and Kitara Whap-Farrar, Hammans will pull on the SUNS jumper next year in their inaugural season. She said that unlike many other players, she has enjoyed a relatively straightforward pathway to the top.

“My journey in football is probably pretty different to most girls because it follows more along the boys pathway,” Hammans said. “I started playing when I was five through Auskick and then played club with boys at junior level for eight years. “(I) played juniors for 10 years, so I’ve been playing for 12 years now and I guess made South Coast rep teams and made my way up to Queensland level.”

Hammans said she was working on her cleanliness at ground level to become that one-touch player, while building on her strengths of disposal efficiency and athleticism. She is known to take the game on at times and provide effective ball use on the outside or coming out of defensive 50. She said her pathway playing against both boys and girls helped her experience different ways of playing.

“It’s been really good through the years,” Hammans said. “I think early on it was very different to playing boys club level football to playing girls football at a higher rep level.”

Hammans said it was exciting to see the growth in female football and experience the pathway leading to the AFL Women’s to show that young girls, like young boys in the past and present, have the potential to reach the highest level. The support from her family has also helped her follow her passion in the sport, as well as following a number of her idols.

“I always wanted to be like Tayla Harris but that’s probably what most girls want,” Hammans said. “Just the way she conducts herself, she’s such a strong player and she’s a role model in the sport but also outside of the sport.”

Hammans averaged 8.7 disposals at the AFL Women’s Championship in shortened 15-minute quarters, complementing a strong inside brigade with her outside abilities, also recording identical numbers for inside 50s and rebounds showing her work rate across the ground. With the AFL Women’s pre-season just around the corner, Hammans is a player who is ready to compete on the big stage and has that opportunity with the league’s newest Queensland club.

Consistency the key for Sansonetti

WHILE others travel far and wide, come into the game late, or are poached from other sports, Sarah Sansonetti has enjoyed a much more linear path on her footballing journey.

The Northern Knights key defender traded the monkey bars and slides for a kick of the footy during breaks at school after her dad introduced her to the oblong ball, and has loved the game ever since.

“At school I was getting around out at lunch – instead of being on the playground, I loved getting out and kicking the footy so then dad decided to try at Auskick,” Sansonetti said. “I had a year down there and then went straight into Under 10s at my local club (Bundoora) which was pretty exciting.”

Football proved a “relief” from normal life for Sansonetti, who continues to enjoy the camaraderie that comes with team sports.

“(I like) the community aspect, the way the community gets together and everyone just enjoys it. You get out there, and it’s sort of just a relief from all your schooling and all that,” she said.

The sport that started as a hobby has turned into an opportunity, with the reliable defender fast becoming a leader in her position.

After featuring five times for the Knights as a 16-year-old, Sansonetti backed up the feat by playing every game in 2018, while returning a 10-game season in her top-age season this year.

Sansonetti’s consistency and ability to play a role in the star-studded Northern side meant her name was constantly one of the first on the team sheet, and it is something she highlighted as a key area during pre-season.

“From a team aspect, playing as a team, getting a lot of run from half-back, our forwards playing their role – I think it’s just everyone getting out there and doing their role, that’s sort of what we’re focusing on,” Sansonetti said during the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me in March.

“(Our goal is to) have a consistent year, be consistent week in, week out and I reckon if we do that, we can go one better”

Sansonetti’s “one better” prophecy came to fruition as the Knights claimed premiership glory with a relatively young side after going down in the 2018 decider.

Her role in the undefeated season came two-fold, proving a pillar in the back six while leading Northern’s bottom and middle-agers through all of the rigours of a year at the elite junior level. It was something Sansonetti touched on during pre-season as she outlined her on-field goals.

“I just try to be a role model at training, lifting expectations like lifting the intensity and showing (younger players) what it takes to be in the program because a lot of them haven’t been exposed to it yet,” she said.

With a fruitful NAB League season done and won, Sansonetti was also a key part of Vic Metro’s unbeaten National Championships campaign in Queensland and is in the midst of a solid VFLW campaign with Darebin Falcons.

While Sansonetti said she is looking to push into more “uncomfortable” areas as her journey progresses, winning is a comfortable aspect of the game she seems to bring with her everywhere – with the Falcons getting up in two of her three outings thus far.

It bodes well for a long, consistent career,

Travel just the beginning for Bella Smith

TWELVE hours in the car to get to and from training and games is not the first choice for any budding footballer, but for Bella Smith, it was an easy choice when the Eyre Peninsula local opted to play women’s football in Adelaide. Whilst she did end up moving to Adelaide in the recent years, Smith still remembers the long car journeys to begin her career in the sport she loved.

“I’m originally from Eyre Peninsula so I started playing with the boys up until I was 14 until I was told I wasn’t able to play anymore with the boys,” Smith said. “So I gave it up for a bit because I wasn’t allowed in. “I ended up moving to Adelaide when I was 16 and brought it back up. Had my first season with the girls last year and went from there. “(I) went from under 17s with Norwood, and got into the Under 18s team last year and the Allies last year. (I) came back again this year with the Norwood SANFL team.”

The success of Norwood in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s has helped Smith develop and learn from some of the most talented footballers in the country. It was such a successful program that Head Coach Steve Symonds earned the chance at coaching the elite competition at Collingwood in the AFL Women’s for the 2020 season. Smith said the group was close and wanted to achieve success together, and while they missed out on the elusive premiership this year, they still loved the season.

“It was awesome to be in such a successful team,” she said. “We had such a great minor rounds series and we were just a really tight knit group. “We all wanted to get better, we were all training as a squad and it was really good to be in that sort of environment just learning off other players such as Sally Riley when she’d come back from the Crows. “It was just so good to learn from people who had been so successful.”

Over the years, Smith has noticed a marked improvement in the talent across the board in women’s football, with both the competition and training standards held in much higher regards.

“The talent is just growing more and more,” Smith said. “It’s just getting more competitive and the elite standards. “The standards have just grown so much – just over the past year and it’s just going to continue to grow so much.”

For all the travel as she paved the way to her eventual state representation at the 2019 AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, Smith said there was always the passion burning inside her. Smith thanked her parents for their support and credited them for inspiring her to believe in herself and her career.

“I have my parents have to thank for that, they had to give up so much for me to keep travelling and ended up moving me over,” she said. “Just having that support behind me has been awesome.”

As for on-field, an AFL Women’s premiership captain has been one who Smith has looked up to and tried to model her game on and off the field.

“If I’m talking about role models, I’d probably say Chelsea Randall,” Smith said. “I just think she’s such a fierce competitor. Just the way she plays, I just love watching her play, it’s just so awesome. Watching her train and her work ethic, it’s just so admirable.”

While her top-age year has crept up, The 182cm Smith has been working hard to continually improve her game and hope to take it to another level going forward.

“I think working on would be probably my athleticism, just getting more endurance into me,” Smith said. “As well as using my body a bit more, probably my strengths are my hands and my kicking. I’m able to take a few good marks here and there and can kick a fair distance which is good and efficient.”

Passionate Lion eyes AFLW future

BRISBANE is a long way from Frankston in the south eastern suburbs of Victoria, but the Sunshine State, and more accurately, the Brisbane Lions is where exciting mid-forward Belle Dawes‘ heart lies. She moved from Victoria up north and brought her love for Australian Rules football with her, and credits much of her recent development – which saw her make the 2018 AFL Women’s Under 18 All Australian side – to then-coach Craig Starcevich.

“I’ve lived in Frankston Victoria and I just started playing, me and my brother signed up for Frankston Rovers Under 9s,” Dawes said. “I played there at that club until Under 12s, and then just played with boys and I moved to Queensland. “That’s when I thought I’ll come play footy up here, come play with the boys and then the girls team started. “Played in the school comp, got seen and then got selected for regionals and started from there.”

Starcevich has been a huge inspiration for Dawes who she said “opened up her whole game” with some crucial advice.

“He’s supportive, a real cool coach, I’ve learnt a lot from him,” Dawes said. “Swivel the head was a big thing, and that opened up my whole game, kicking left and right and swivelling my head to switch it. “Because he’s been my coach over a few years I’ve got to know what he teaches and just developing that each year.”

Dawes admits the change from an Australian Rules dominant state to one that is predominantly rugby was different, but refreshing because it helped her feel more at home in the pathway system.

“Coming from Victoria it’s all like AFL, it’s really different up here, it’s very rugby like,” she said. “Even at schools there’s no fields, no one really follows it, so it was different, it’s quieter, but I kind of like it because when we did all the regional stuff I knew all the girls, it was all the same. “We all got to know each other and we became more of a family so it was cool.”

It has helped Dawes that her family has been so supportive in helping her chase her dream.

“My mum is really supportive, she loves it, she is my number one fan,” Dawes said. “My brother plays too. “He’s 16, but he plays and he loves it too, and my sister just kind of follows whatever we do.”

Dawes said her strengths include accumulation and being able to read the play and the ball from ruck taps and around the ground, indicating a high football IQ. While her fitness “always can” improve, she is just as focused on working on her skills to make the right decisions by hand or foot and reduce rushed disposal.

As for her ultimate goal and club of choice, Dawes summed it up in just two words – “Draft” and “Brisbane”. Should Dawes be granted her wish, she will get the opportunity to continue with her mentor in Starcevich and help the Lions continue their already impressive AFL Women’s history.

Kick-to-kick sets path for All-Australian future

AN All-Australian jumper is a far cry from kicking the ball in the backyard with her father more than a decade ago, but for Madison Newman, the passion for Australian Rules football has never wavered. The rebounding defender was awarded a spot on the interchange bench for her successful national carnival where she averaged 15.3 disposals and 4.0 rebounds – the equal second most rebounds across the week. But her journey to All-Australian started like many others.

“Ever since I was young and I could pick up a footy I was always kicking it with dad out the back of the house because he didn’t have any boys; I was the only girl who wanted to play footy or do any sort of balls sports,” Newman said. “I started footy through Auskick and went into primary school and played Year 2/3 and 4/5s with the boys and then I couldn’t play anymore. “I quit for a few years and did cricket, I did that for about four years in the state team. “When I was about 16, I went into West Adelaide and then started SANFL from there, and it’s sort of just taken off.”

Her experience in the SANFL Women’s competition gave her the boost she needed, becoming an integral part of the West Adelaide line-up, averaging 18.7 disposals, 2.6 marks, 2.1 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s and 5.9 rebounds. She was named Breakthrough Player of the Round in the opening round of the 2019 season and continued that form throughout, named in the back pocket of the 2019 SANFL Women’s Team of the Year. Newman credited the support from senior players at West Adelaide for her development over this year.

“It’s been really good to get feedback from them (AFLW listed players) after the games,” Newman said. “Sarah Perkins was one that stuck with me at the start of the year, shook my hand and said ‘you’ve just got to keep working at it’ and ‘you’ve got a bright future’ so that was really cool to hear from her.”

Her biggest inspiration on her football journey stems back to the one-on-one coaching from the moment she could kick a ball all those years ago.

“My dad (is my biggest inspiration),” Newman said. “He’s taught pretty much everything I know. “He taught me how to kick and catch.”

While her successful carnival and All-Australian jumper was enough to earn her a AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite, Newman said she was trying not too focus too much on what could be the biggest moment of her football journey later in the year. Newman admitted this year’s lead-up to the championships had extra emphasis than the year before.

“Last year wasn’t as stressful as it wasn’t my draft year,” she said. “I’ve just tried to work really hard in the months leading up to this competition and trying to get my body right as best as I can to perform well.”

As for on the field, Newman said she hoped to improve her contested ball-winning ability as well as tackling pressure to give herself a more all-round game with a goal of working more into the midfield in the coming year. In terms of her strengths, Newman backs herself with her run and carry, with a long kick to boot. While the championships are done and dusted, now Newman looks ahead to the AFL Women’s Draft Combine as one of four South Australians nominated. If she does end up landing on an AFL Women’s list, she will not be forgetting all those kicks in the backyard that kick-started her journey.

Eagles’ pre-season spurs Usher on

CENTRAL Allies midfielder Teagan Usher credits her football development with Woodville-West Torrens in the South Australian National Football League Women’s (SANFLW) competition. In her eight games this year, Usher averaged 9.8 disposals, 2.3 marks, 1.0 clearance and 1.5 tackles in what was a challenging but ultimately rewarding season for the 158cm onballer.

“SANFLW is a big step up from the local level I was playing at,” Usher said. “It’s a lot more game plan and there’s a lot more skill involved so when you’re versing local clubs it tends to be a harder and more physical competition because people are not taught to go into contests correctly, but with SANFLW you’re taught the correct way to go and pick up the ball you’re less likely to get hurt and stuff like that but it’s just a physically harder competition and mentally as well.”

While her side failed to pick up a win in its inaugural SANFLW season, Usher said it was an eye-opening experience with the amount of work that went into pre-season and getting right to play against senior bodies and the best talent in South Australia.

“It’s a lot of work mentally doing preseason and physically pushing your body, because your body can go more, but it’s your mind that stops you,” Usher said. “So I found that that’s quite a hard part for me in preseason because I’d never done a preseason like that and the strength and conditioning was quite mentally tough for me, pushing through it. “And just the game side of things, I found it a bit hard to get my head around the whole structure part because I’d never learned anything like that before. “But yeah, it’s a great competition.”

Like many AFL Women’s Under 18s players who spoke to us, Usher came from a different sporting background, shooting hoops before she was laying tackles.

“Very early on I played basketball just at a district club level,” Usher said. “It started becoming less popular to play and I played for a school footy carnival and a lot of the girls tried to get me out to play for a local club, so I decided to start playing and I didn’t think anything of it and then from there I got selected to play Under 17s for Woodville-West Torrens. “From there got selected to play state so that’s where everything kind of took off and then just got into SANFLW state league again and now Central Allies.”

Having already tasted the difference between local league football and the SANFLW, Usher said the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships was a different ball game again with the way matches were played. In her three games on the Gold Coast, the 18-year-old averaged 9.3 disposals, 1.7 marks, 2.7 tackles, 1,0 clearances and 1.3 rebounds rotating through the midfield and defensive half of the side.

“It’s (championships) similar (to SANFLW) in a way but it’s not, I think the biggest difference is probably the age gaps we’re playing against, we’re playing against younger girls whereas in SANFLW we’re playing against older girls but I think it’s a very similar type of competition, but there’s more game plan and skill involved in state champs, definitely.”

Throughout the championships, Usher showed a desire to hunt the football and the opposition carrying it, an aspect of her game she said is a strength. With many of her opponents taller than her, Usher has found a way to use her height to her advantage at ground level.

“So my biggest strength has always been my contested ball,” Usher said. “No matter who I’m versing, whoever I come up against I’m five foot nothing and they’re six foot three I’ll put up a fight to get the ball definitely, probably on the ground is my strongest point. “I’m always in under the ball, getting ball out to my teammates and going from there.”

For Usher, the next stage in her development is working on her “short 45 kicks” and making good decisions with ball-in-hand which has been an area of focus. Her father has been a huge influence on Usher and she credits her development through the football pathways over the journey with his support and resilience.

“He’s a very very big role model for me, he used to play footy when he was younger, played in a much tougher competition than me because he’s quite a bit older,” Usher said. “But he’s had so many injuries, and he’s always pushed through and his mentality to keep pushing through things is just – it blows my mind how he gets through every single day.”

Running out for Central Allies at the championships was Usher’s highest achievement to date, and something she said is a “big responsibility wearing the badge and it’s also a big honour”. Now she has her sights set on even bigger goals.

“[My] ultimate goal would obviously be making AFLW one day,” Usher said. “But I’m a very ‘take it day by day’ kind of person, so got into state and then I just kind of worked on it there, and then did what I needed to do and I got into Allies and work through it day by day and hopefully get to AFLW one day.”

McDonald forges footy path

DANDENONG Stingrays’ captain and Vic Country leader Molly McDonald was in a different situation to most draft hopefuls coming into her top-age year. The talented midfielder did not have the question marks hanging over her head as to where she might be in 12 months time, having already been snapped up by St Kilda as a pre-listed player – along with Stingrays’ teammate Isabella Shannon – well ahead of the AFL Women’s 2020 season. The greater certainty over her playing future did not deter McDonald from having a starring role in Stingrays’ team, and being a key contributor in Vic Country’s AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships campaign.

McDonald originally started football after crossing from basketball when a pathway became clear.
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“I was playing basketball and then I quit rep’ because I always wanted to play footy,” she said. “I was with my brother, and then just started playing footy.”

The Stingrays’ leader said she relished the captaincy this year describing it as “really exciting”.

“I just like to get around the girls and lead as an example for them,” McDonald said at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day, hosted by Rookie Me in March.

Whilst McDonald enjoyed basketball and even reached representative levels in the sport, she always had the passion for football and said she enjoyed the “freedom” she had on the footy field, enabling her to run across the ground. Unfortunately the Stingrays did not make the finals of the NAB League Girls which McDonald had hoped for, but they showed plenty of promising signs, particularly early in the season when they pushed a number of teams. Individually, McDonald identified a number of areas for her to improve her game this year.

“Probably working on the aspects of my game that are not so strong,” McDonald said. “So working through the forward line and working on my opposite foot.”

In season 2019, McDonald averaged 13.7 disposals, 1.6 marks, 3.7 tackles and 3.9 inside 50s, while also booting a couple of goals spending time between midfield and half-forward. On debut for the Southern Saints, McDonald showed she was more than capable in the Saints’ win over Casey Demons, amassing 16 disposals, three marks and six tackles to be one of the best players on the field.

Following her VFLW commitments, McDonald headed north to assist Vic Country in going undefeated in Round 2 of the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships after they initially lost to Vic Metro. McDonald averaged 12.0 disposals, 4.3 tackles and 4.3 inside 50s and booted a goal across her three games, then returned to play her second VFLW match last weekend – oddly against Casey again – and booted her first goal in the competition.

Of all the achievements this season, McDonald’s greatest came during the week when she was named in the 2019 Under-18 AFL Women’s All-Australian side for her efforts during the national carnival. While many other top-age girls are hoping they can find a home in the AFL Women’s Draft later this year, McDonald’s fate is known, but it is not stopping her aiming to have a huge impact on the Southern Saints’ finals campaign with her side currently sitting second on the ladder, two games clear of third.

Former netballer Purcell take rapid rise in her stride

THERE have been plenty of impressive performers that have picked up the oblong ball after testing themselves with a round one, and Sandringham Dragons’ Marguerite Purcell is no different. The former netballer played in a premiership with Caulfield Grammar in 2018, and became a staple of the Dragons’ midfield in 2019.

The speedy winger showed plenty of growth and development in 2019, enough so to earn a place in Vic Metro’s AFL Women’s Under-18 squad which went undefeated at the National Championships earlier this month on the Gold Coast. For Purcell, this year was about enjoying the atmosphere out on the field and getting around her friends at the Dragons.

“[I’m looking forward to] just playing with the girls, they’re such a beautiful group,” Purcell said. “I really have so much fun with them, and getting to know them more and getting into the game is so much fun.”

Purcell had a job convincing her family that football was the way to go, making her way up the ranks to compete at the highest elite junior level.

“I started with club footy,” Purcell said. “I really, really, really wanted to play, so I begged my dad and he finally let me play so I was really happy. “I came from netball.”

Like many dual-sport athletes, Purcell found some difficulties crossing from netball to football, especially given her lack of training experience.

“I came straight into footy and didn’t actually do any training,” Purcell said. “I only played games because I wasn’t available to train, so it was kind of crazy, I didn’t know any of the rules so I kind of learnt as I went. “I think netball helped me a little bit, but it’s still totally a different game.”

Now at the conclusion of the NAB League Girls and AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, Purcell will look back knowing she has taken a lot from the season, even from the very start when she tested at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day, hosted by Rookie Me in March.

“[It was] pretty tiring to be honest, it’s a little bit hot in here,” Purcell said after completing her sprints and agility tests. “But it’s been really good. “Bit scary, but I’ve enjoyed it.”

With her athleticism a highlight of her game, Purcell honed in on improving other aspects of her profile. The Vic Metro midfielder aspired to build a good base across the board from which to improve.

“Definitely my skills,” Purcell said. “It’s always something I’ve wanted to improve on. “Basic fundamentals, just so I can get a really solid base.”

The 170cm midfielder turned 18 over the weekend, and like many of the top-age prospects has aspirations of making it to the highest level possible. In 2019, Purcell averaged 10.4 disposals, 2.0 marks, 2.4 inside 50s and 2.0 tackles, with her kick-to-handball ratio being a massive 8.45 – 9.3 kicks to 1.1 handballs, showing her ability to move the ball in transition by foot. With Vic Metro she played all three games and experienced playing at the elite level. Whatever the future may hold for Purcell, the rise from netballer to playing at the highest junior level for Australian Rules football has been quite a journey.

Notman enjoys pathway journey

THE journey rather than the destination has driven Gippsland Power and Vic Country versatile tall, Shanara Notman. The talented athlete has tried her hand at basketball, netball and athletics; still involved in the first two as well as the oblong shaped ball sport.

Not many outside the Gippsland Power pathway would have known much about the key position defender who has proven more than capable up forward or in the ruck as the 2019 AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships attest. The reason was the fact Notman chose not to play last year, focusing on basketball after an initially successful V/Line Cup carnival where playing for the Power, held her own against fellow dual-athlete Lucy Cripps on that day.

Returning to the NAB League Girls system, Notman had a strong return when she played the opening game of the season, before getting into the groove in the final three matches, averaging 12.3 disposals and 2.7 marks per game. Her best match came in the final round, racking up 18 disposals, five marks and seven rebounds against Calder Cannons to really show off some of her athletic attributes.

Notman said she always enjoyed football, but the fact there were “no options” to play football as a young girl, opted for basketball which was her favourite sport at the time.

“I started around just as a little kid kicking around with my brothers and then didn’t think anything of it,” she said. “I played more basketball and netball, and then I saw there was a pathway through Gippsland Power and then saw that the AFL was bringing in women’s league and I only started playing the last year or the year before.”

Speaking to Notman in the pre-season, she had not placed any expectations on her season.

“Not sure (where I want to get to), hopefully make the VFL,” Notman said. “Some of the girls will make VFL and some of the girls will make the draft, but I’m just there to enjoy it with the girls.”

Notman praised the work of Gippsland Power’s Female Talent Manager Chelsea Caple and Head Coach Scott Armour who had helped work with her and further develop her footballing abilities. Whilst she said her positioning was strong, she just had to piece everything together transferring her skills from basketball to Australian Rules football.

She certainly did that, earning a place on Vic Country’s list for the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships on the Gold Coast. There, Notman impressed through the ruck and up forward, booting a goal and providing a presence in the forward half of the ground. She also ticked off the box for making the VFLW, signing with Casey Demons for the remainder of the 2019 season.

Whilst Notman was not sure what the season held at the beginning of the year, she would be pleased with how it has panned out, particularly over the past couple of months and now she just looks ahead to see what the future holds.

Playing for Western Australia a “dream come true” for Mikayla Bowen

WESTERN Australia (WA) Under-18 representative, Mikayla Bowen always wanted to be an elite athlete.

Now in her second year of the state program, Bowen is well on her way to achieving her dream, playing in an elite environment against some of the best female footballers in the country. She is ecstatic to be doing this in WA colours.

“Ever since I did start (playing footy), even prior to that, I’ve always watched football in a men’s competition knowing that at my age the women’s competition wasn’t even around,” Bowen said. “Having it around now and being a part of an elite level is just insane and it’s definitely a dream come true for me and for all the rest of the team as well. “I’m sure they’re all looking forward to the draft. “It’s a pathway that’s been set down for us that we can pursue. “It’s really exciting.”

Bowen is only in her third year of football and has already represented her state twice, and made the All Australian squad of 48 after a stellar AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships this year. The 17 year-old was originally inspired by her brother to take up the sport, and is now succeeding in following his footsteps.

“Having my brother as one of my biggest inspirations, he’s played football ever since he was a little tacker, so I’ve been going down to his game every Sunday and watching him play and develop as a player,” Bowen said. “Where he is now really inspired me to head down to Bassendean three years ago now and take out the first tryouts in that. “Ever since then, we’ve just kept stepping up.”

Bowen originally joined Swan Districts in Bassendean with state teammates, Mikayla and Brianna Hyde, and has thrived on the spectacular football community at the club.

“At Swan Districts, the club to me is like a family,” the 17 year-old said. “I went down there on the first day, I was treated like literally they were all my sisters, the coaches were all my family. “It’s such a welcoming environment and I think that no matter how skilled you are or how passionate you are or how long you’ve been playing the game, everybody just loves each other. “It’s a really good environment to be around.”

She admits that the travel was initially difficult but now says it is all worth it, after seeing big progress being made in her team.

“I did live in Darlington originally which is about half an hour away and not having my license, my mum is busy running her own business and I do have a younger sister as well so I wasn’t personally able to get around much with her so I was more reliant on public transport,” Bowen said. “So training started at 4.30 so I’d finished school at 3, would have to run to the bus stop or to the train station and then catch the train all the way up to Bassendean station. “It was a bit of a trek for but it was all worth it really to come and see what we did then to where we are now, every part of it was worth it, it wasn’t really a hassle in the end.”

Bowen plays in teams that are constantly improving, and would like to continue that trend individually, highlighting some skills that she would like to work on.

“I just admire how well the girls can read the play,” the WA representative said. “That’s definitely one of my key points to work on, is knowing where the ball is going to go, where i need to position myself. “I’ve looked up to a couple of girls which I’m now playing against which is really interesting because being on the field with them, they kind of drag you towards the ball and you learn where you need to be when the ball’s there, where you need to be for your teammates and it’s really just learning and living the life of an elite athlete so it’s definitely a dream come true for me.”

Away from football, Bowen hopes to put her hands-on attitude into practice, admitting that a trade would be her preferred choice of career.

“I was originally planning to go to uni and then footy did pick up for me so university didn’t seem to interest me as much when my passion for football came but I don’t take that as a negative, I really personally love hands-on stuff,” she said. “I’d probably die if I was sitting at a desk all day, that’s kind of why I play football.”