International Women's Day Luncheon
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY THEME WAS 'BREAKING THE BIAS', AND WE WERE BLESSED TO HAVE CURRENT RICHMOND AFLW PLAY & 2016 GRADUATE MEG MACDONALD AS OUR GUEST SPEAKER AT THIS YEAR'S LUNCHEON.
My Woodleigh experience was so rewarding and I feel it supported shaping who I am today. The teachers were quite remarkable, there was so much diversity throughout the school, and you could always find someone you connected with.
I knew I would never be the dux of the school, and I had no idea what I wanted to do. As a child, I was never one to dress up as a princess or play with Barbies. I was the one nagging my older brother and my dad to come to play outside and kick the footy with me. They used to love doing this until I hit the age where I was kicking the ball further than they were. From that day on, I never seemed to get an invite anymore.
I tried different sports. I found quite a bit of expectation on what sports were ‘acceptable’; netball was for the girls, and footy was for the boys. I think this is a factor in society even today. However, I do believe there have been some big changes to help make any sport ‘acceptable’ for anyone.
Woodleigh is not the sportiest school going around. We were seen as the ‘underdogs,’ but I don’t think we would have it another way. Win, lose or draw, it didn’t matter. If we had enough students for a team, it was a win. Woodleigh and many other schools have helped change how we view gender and sport. There is so much variety on offer, and there is always a girls’ and a boys’ team. I hope all schools can offer the same equal opportunities.
My football pathway became clearer as a friend pushed me to play footy with her at Mount Eliza. Watching the looks on people’s faces when I told them I played footy was funny. I went on to play for the Seaford VFLW club before moving to St Kilda VFLW. There I was lucky enough to be part of history and play in their first-ever women’s team in the AFLW. It was all so overwhelming and exciting, being able to visualise women going further with their footy and possibly being able to make a career out of it.
After the first season, I had a few injuries and couldn’t perform. Unfortunately, I missed out on selection and a contract for the following season. I felt dejected, and my love for footy waivered. I was set on going back to play local footy until, again, I was pushed by one of my friends to come down and train with Casey Demons VFLW. I felt at home straight away and trained in the pre-season until COVID hit in early 2020.
We continued to train away from the club and were excited to return for the next season, though it was an interrupted one. We had a great team, and everyone loved it. My coach moved me from the backline to the midfield; a decision which was pivotal for me. The role suited how I play, and I was pretty dominant. The end-of-year draft came, and I didn’t get picked up. I wasn’t too upset about this as I loved where I was.
Two weeks before the 2022 AFLW season started, I received a call from Richmond’s AFLW list manager asking me to come down to training as they had an opening on their list due to injury. I went down to training on New Year’s Eve: my excitement was high, but I kept my expectations low. Much to my delight, I was signed that night. To say it was a great end to the year was an understatement!
Watching my parents’ faces when telling them I would be wearing yellow and black was one of the best moments. Dad has been a Richmond supporter since he was a kid. I still pinch myself every time I walk through the doors at Punt Road Oval. Having my family and friends turn on the TV to watch me play is crazy.
I think I speak for all AFLW players in saying how proud we are of how far women’s footy has come; although there is still a long way to go, we are heading in the right direction. I feel proud of my role in inspiring the next generation of footballers. It’s no longer a pipe dream that AFLW players may one day be able to be full-time athletes and dedicate 100% of their time to the program.
Around the world, women’s sport is growing. Its attendance, media coverage, sponsorships and pay scales have increased dramatically. It’s almost hard to keep up with the rate it is growing. I hope this motivates the younger generation to become physically active and participate in as many sports as possible. I believe team sport is so rewarding both physically and mentally, and there are so many benefits and life lessons from being part of a team.
My journey from local footy to AFLW was unexpected. I was fortunate to have been provided with opportunities, and I feel very lucky and privileged. I hope my story can inspire others to jump at opportunities as they present and not to give up.
MEG MACDONALD (2016)