What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
There’s so many ways of looking at it, there are so many things I’ve just been super blessed to be a part of you know like I would say kicking 100 goals is an achievement that stands out. But I think for me, playing AFL and seeing what it’s doing for young boys and girls off the field is just as big and just as important, if not even more important, than the accolades. I had a message from a mum on Facebook thanking me for responding to her daughter on Instagram, I didn’t think anything of it because I always respond to the kids on Instagram because they’re the future so I'm like ‘no problem at all’ but she wrote back saying her child had been going through a tough time and had previously tried to take her own life and when I replied to her it was the first time she came out of her room and wanted to go back to school. So knowing that playing football and just being me is able to have that impact is something that I hold very close and it’s more important to me.
At WH we love the saying – you can’t be what you can’t see. How important do you think it is to have female representation in sport?
I think it’s super important, I still remember all the athletes, all the football players I grew up playing with as a kid and to this day I remember all of their names and they definitely impacted on my life. But imagine if they were at an AFL level, how much cooler that would be. I love Serena Williams, I think she’s one of the best athletes – male or female – that’s ever played sport so I think it really is important.
What does your regular day on a plate look like?
For breakfast I have the same thing every day, I’m a super plain girl who just loves plain stuff. So for breakfast I’ll have Bega peanut butter on crackers, round crackers with a remedy kombucha – I love them it’s been really good for my stomach. For lunch I normally have a salad, which is what I just had, for snacks it sort of depends. If I don’t have crackers in the morning I’ll have Special K and then peanut butter crackers in the afternoon. For dinner, it depends on what Belle has cooked but it’s always something healthy and amazing. I eat a plant-based diet so I don’t eat any meat or dairy so it’s always green, and colourful and beautiful.
What does your training regime look like ahead of the upcoming AFLW season?
I’m training twice a day, I literally just finished the last three hours I’ve been training. So I started in the gym so I’m in the gym for an hour every morning and in the afternoon I do a conditioning set. So because I have meetings this afternoon for my full time job, I’ve done my gym and I’ll have to go straight out and do my running. I train twice a day six days a week and sometime I’ll try to squeeze in a session of yoga.
Wow, you’ve obviously said you’re working full time too so between work, training and being a full time carer for your sister, do you achieve work/life balance? Is that front of mind for you?
It’s not easy, to be honest. I get up at 4am and I don’t finish until 11pm but I love my job, I love training. Right now I’m just training to feel better, get fit and prep for AFLW. I love the feeling of achieving something in my training, I don’t like leaving a training unless I feel like I’ve been challenged. And with my work, I’ve very passionate about my job I have 85 people that work for me so it’s a pretty big responsibility but at the same time I’m that person that didn’t go to school from year seven to year 11 so to have a company that now has 85 employees. And Vinny [my sister] just lights up my day, being around her when you’re exhausted or tired or can’t get up and go… Vinny is on a health kick herself like she’s lost 50 kilograms so when I’m tired and I don’t know if I can get up and get going I just walk into the gym and she’s on the treadmill for two hours, she’s pretty motivating.
You’ve been documenting your sister Vinny’s health and fitness kick, what’s the reaction been like?
You know what’s so funny, the best way I can describe it, every time I put Vinny on my Instagram – I just put it up because I’m proud of her, I’m like a pageant mum – everyone goes crazy for Vinny on my social media and it’s so beautiful. I’ll show her, look this person sent you a message saying ‘go Vinny!’ and she’ll get so excited. To see her, someone who had [thyroid issues], which made her put on weight uncontrollably. Part of her disability is that she’s like a small child, you can’t train her like an adult so you have to work around that and to see that she can work consistently on a treadmill, she’s also got walking disabilities, she walks on the outside of her feet she’s got square feet, but she’s doing it and she’s killing which is awesome.
Do you think that there's enough support for those with disabilities and their carers?
Nah I don’t think so, not at all. Vinny wants to play AFL but there aren't any special needs teams. She also wants to play basketball and there’s only one competition and it doesn’t even run all the time and you’ve got and try to get in if there’s enough room, there’s only one competition. If I had the money I would start a gym for people with special needs to come and have trainers that have the time take... even just to hang out just so they can feel good.
You’ve discussed some struggles with mental health last year, especially in relation to ongoing media and public commentary – how are you feeling now?
I’ve never felt better. Going on Survivor was something that definitely changed me, it pushed me to the point of… it broke me but it fixed me if that makes sense. And coming back and signing with North [Melbourne], they’re amazing, they sat down with me and said we just need you to get you right, that’s all we care about. They’re the kind of club that put the person first, not the player. They’ve been amazing. And for me the last five months have been about getting in the gym and getting strong. Instead of saying you have to be doing this, you need to be doing that, they’ve just said you just need to get your health right, that’s all we care about. Honestly, I’ve never felt this excited about AFLW, I feel like it’s the first year.
What’s helped you manage your mental health on a day-to-day basis?
I just surround myself with people who are positive and people who understand me. My fiance is very spiritual and very happy, never lets things get her down, and I’ve got Vinny who doesn’t even know what the real world is like because she’s so normal she’s never been corrupted by the world. Looking back at my life and seeing where I am I’m pretty blessed, I’m pretty blessed to be in the position I’m in with my company, playing AFL and doing the things I get to do. It’s pretty amazing. It’s just about not concentrating on the negatives, you know, I’ll get a hundred messages and one of them is someone being rude and bullying but that doesn’t tip the scales. I just block and delete now, I just try to keep moving forward.
It seems like there's been a lot of additional pressure on the AFLW and the way the game is played, how do you deal with that kind of commentary?
For me personally, I’m one of 30 girls on the team and the team has got to bring it together on the day. You know it is hard because we’re trying to play footy but at the same time we’re trying to change the old school, dinosaur opinions that women can’t play footy or shouldn’t play footy. It’s 2018, women can do anything, and men can do anything, equal rights. So I think we’re trying to play footy and play because we love it, but at the same time we’re trying to go above and beyond because we’re still trying to get accepted.
What’s your hope for the future of AFLW, how would you like to see it progress?
I would love it to be full-time, like I said I start my day at 4am and finish at 11. I would like to be training full time rather than working, and training and recovering all in the space of those hours and you know especially when you’re working all those hours and then trying to perform as an elite athlete it’s challenging, it really is challenging physically and mentally. And keep it growing, so all these little kids who come to the games, who love all the girls, that message me, so they get to play full time so they don’t have to worry about all the hard stuff that we’re faced with.