IT is fair to say that Mietta Kendall is a pretty well rounded sports star with the youngster representing Victoria in hockey, attaining her black belt in Karate and also representing the Eastern Ranges. However, it is the latter that Kendall had always been interested in for a long time.
“So I played footy with the boys at school just recess and lunch and stuff. Then Blackburn, my local club, started up a girls team, I was in grade four when they started and I joined in grade five. So that’s how it all kind of started and I just went through the pathways,” Kendall said.
The ability to inject your own flair into the game and the family-like culture are what initially drew Kendall to the sport, along with the fact that she is a dedicated Richmond supporter.
“I’ve always loved it (football), I’ve always been a really strong Richmond supporter. I would go with my dad to the games every week,” she reminisced. “So I guess I’ve just always loved it as a little kid. I love, I suppose, the room in the game to kind of be a bit unique and be your own player to add your own magic and your own touch to the game in whatever way that might be. As well as being able to play in a team that’s really like a family and being amongst that culture that you can’t really find anywhere else.”
Speaking of culture, that is something Kendall particularly loves about the Ranges. Having been there for four years now, Kendall has become a part of the furniture at the club and credits the nurturing environment of the club and strong friendships she has made throughout her time there.
“Definitely our culture, we’re all very much there for one another, we are more of a family than we are a team on and off the field, and that’s been built through our coaches that we’ve had since the start and managers like Jessica Hollands. As well as having good leaders and a really good bunch of girls. It’s not cliquey, it’s not segregated we are all one and I think it is a beautiful thing,” Kendall said.
Playing as a goalkeeper, the switch from hockey to footy was an easy one for Kendall with the Ranges defender explaining she was able to bring those attributes from hockey onto the footy field, especially when it came to reading the play – an area she highlighted as one of her strengths.
“I’m hard going at the ball so that’s definitely one of my strengths. I will follow up on second, third, fourth efforts wherever I can, and my reading the play. And I’ve got quite a long kick that’s usually accurate. I think being able to read the play comes from previously playing hockey, as a goalkeeper and being able to lead the girls as much as I can with direction and communication,” she said.
“I think karate and hockey have both really helped my footy, karate in my strength, hockey in my read of the play,” Kendall said. “I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to play more than just one sport.”
Representing Victoria in hockey for roughly six years, which is no mean feat, Kendall decided with her busy schedule that it was time to forgo the sport and solely focus on her football dreams. It was a big move in the scheme of things, but something she felt she had to do.
“I sort of gave up hockey a little bit I suppose over the last couple of years. I gave that up to focus on footy when things started getting a bit hectic with Vic footy and plus school, there wasn’t really enough time. I think I was getting a little bit bored and playing in goalkeeper, you know, sometimes don’t get a touch,” she said. “You go to footy and you promise to get, you know, 30, roughly touches at club. I think the game of football is very different in the sense of there’s less rules and there’s more freedom, and I love that about it.”
In terms of areas of improvement, Kendall identified elements such as the ability to kick on her “alternate left foot” as a prime focus along with increasing her endurance, groundball gets and short sprints to ensure she is continuously developing and growing her game.
Much like many of her teammates and fellow Victorians gearing up for the Draft Combine it has been an incredibly unconventional year with the NAB League season only lasting three rounds before it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The cancellation came somewhat of a shock to Kendall who was on her way to training when she found out and was left a bit emotional by the news.
“A few of the girls were there and we had a massive cry. Me and my two best mates El (Eloise Chaston) and Bridget (Deed) we kind of just hung out for a bit and just moped around with each other. We knew it was a sad rough day but we knew there was always going to be opportunities in the future so keep going.”
Initially upset by the news, Kendall found ways to keep motivate noting that her teammates and people at the Ranges provided her with that encouragement to keep pushing.
“So obviously it was super hard and the biggest thing that helped for me is actually having like majority of my team have Strava, and we post our runs and stuff we do, we follow each other, we like each others posts and stuff and keep supporting one another,” she said. “Throughout the year, I think that’s a really good motivation to keep pushing and keep training, as well as coaches and staff checking in on us to see how we’re going.”
With hopes of doing a double degree in education majoring in psychology in 2021, the centre half back has found some silver linings when it comes to the NAB League season being cancelled, able to spend more time focusing on her studies, although she did admit she did some motivation was “lacking now that I have been online learning for so long.”
“Yeah, in a weird way school this year has been a lot harder but a lot easier at the same time because usually I’m juggling driving out to Kilsyth for Eastern training two nights a week, which is about 40 minutes from me in traffic. My time was very precious last year and I didn’t have a lot of it when it came to study. So I think that’s a positive to come out of this year, I’ve been able to really focus on my studies a bit more in such an important year, Year 12,” she said.
When it came to inspirations, it is no surprise her parents came to the forefront of her mind crediting them for the support they have given her over the years.
“My step dad works at the Hawthorn Football Club and is the boxing and tackling coach so he has been a huge support this year. Training me every week, like, two, three times a week to help me out, which has been amazing and then mum is so supportive and always has been. They’ve definitely helped me stay motivated and get through this year to try to be as good as I can for the draft,” she said.
With her parents an inspiration off the footy field, on the footy field it was the likes of four-time premiership captain Luke Hodge and Adelaide Crows AFLW star Chelsea Randall that caught her eye, highlighting the way they lead the troops – something she hopes to include in her game and bring into the AFLW if all goes to plan on Tuesday.
“Their work rate at the ball ability to lead their teammates, and really lead by example is something that I like to try and strive towards in my own game. They’re two of my favourite players of all time.”