GIANT ‘ins’ for AFL Sydney Women’s
Round Three will see a host of AFL Women’s GWS GIANTS players return to the AFL Sydney competition, after an AFL sanctioned four-week break from football.
While some players chose to return for their local Clubs prior to the Easter break, the majority will lace up their boots for their first AFL Sydney match this weekend.
Speaking with GWS GIANTS and Macquarie University Captain, Amanda Farrugia, UNSW Eastern Suburbs’ Jacinda Barclay, Southern Power’s Kristy De Pellegrini, and Sydney University’s Erin McKinnon, the sentiment felt is, that they are all eager to return.
“I feel like I am changing the tread on my tyres at the moment – I am in the shed, parked for a little bit, then I will be going again, full gas, re-oiled, ready to go,” explains Barclay.
“I have been enjoying catching up with friends and family, spending that extra time with them, and getting back into work at full speed, but I am very ready to play now,” says De Pellegrini.
The purpose of the break was to ensure the longevity of the players, whose two seasons – local and professional – will see them playing AFL for the vast majority of the year.
“If we had gone from a GIANTS AFLW season, straight back into Club footy, we would be playing from the beginning of February, to perhaps September, with a very small off-season, and straight back into AFLW training in November,” explains Farrugia.
“It’s purely just to rest the body and the mind a little bit – I feel pretty well rested.”
Admittedly, there will be an adjustment for the GIANTS players when returning to Club level football. While the AFL Sydney competition has progressed leaps and bounds in recent years, the difference in standards between the local league and the AFLW competition is, understandably, quite significant.
“We need to help bridge that gap,” says Farrugia.
“We need to try and professionalise the AFL Sydney competition a lot more because in Western Australia and Victoria in particular, they are already doing it, and we don’t want to be behind – we want to be equal to them.
“That’s the way we can nurture and bring up the quality of the talent.”
While they acknowledge that they will probably be looked to – in-house and by the public – to lead this charge for greater professionalism within the league, they also put the onus on their teammates to lift around them.
“Individuals are in control of their own behaviour, we can guide people to do what we hope they will do, but whether or not they will do it, as an individual, is their choice,” says Farrugia.
“As a GIANTS team, we just want to educate everyone as best we can, and help them develop,” says De Pellegrini.
A marked increase in numbers at training, and general excitement about the game are two of the major changes the GIANTS players have witnessed in returning to AFL Sydney.
“There has been a huge influx of new girls and new interest, which is great,” says Barclay.
“You have to start somewhere, and some people just have to be shown – we are females, we are pretty malleable, we just have to show them that they can do it.”
Women coming to AFL from other sporting backgrounds is another change currently happening within AFL Sydney. A new breed of player – inexperienced in AFL but not necessarily in professional sport – has been a major source of fresh talent for AFLW teams nationally – a trend felt in Sydney too.
“We have a few girls coming from other sports. Mac Uni has a new player who used to play for the Matilda’s in soccer, and she really knows her way around a footy field,” says Farrugia.
“The shape of the ball is obviously strange, she doesn’t know where it is going to bounce, but she has a real eye for it.”
“There is generally lots of new enthusiasm around after the AFLW, with many keen to give it their best shot,” says McKinnon.
McKinnon will be returning to Sydney University for her first proper season this weekend. Having only played two games for the Bombers in 2016, McKinnon was plucked from the NSW/ACT Youth Girls state team, and selected straight into the GIANTS squad.
“I am straight out of the junior pathway!” exclaims McKinnon.
“[Youth Girls] really helped me develop from a leadership perspective.
“Being given opportunities such as the All Stars Youth Girls curtain raiser last year, where I got to train with the best Youth Girls players, it really helped, and lifted my game.”
McKinnon is also hoping to further develop her skillset in preparation for the next AFLW season, during this year’s AFL Sydney competition.
“Because AFL Women’s was so short and so intense, you couldn’t really work on any of your weaknesses. You just had to keep going and playing to your strengths, so I would like to work on my weaknesses.
“We want to develop skills that we can take back to the AFLW. It’s a really good place to improve on our skills.”
As for the moment each of the girls line up against their GWS GIANTS teammates on the AFL Sydney field, they are keen to dominate – no matter who their opponent.
“I think that camaraderie and that friendship we have built from the GIANTS will never change. We will be friends for life, even though we will be up against each other at Club level,” says Farrugia.
“But we will give each other a bit of a wink and a smile here and there on the field, no doubt.”
You can see the GWS GIANTS Women’s players back playing for their AFL Sydney Clubs from this weekend:
Sydney University – Erin McKinnon, Nicola Barr, Steph Walker, Isabella Rudolph
UNSW Eastern Suburbs – Jacinda Barclay, Rebecca Beeson, Maddy Collier
Macquarie University – Amanda Farrugia
Southern Power – Kristy De Pellegrini
Newtown Breakaways – Codie Briggs
Wollongong Saints – Kate Stanton
Penrith Ramettes – Renee Tomkins
Western Wolves – Mai Nguyen (inj.)