A leap of faith lands a premiership

Laura Small (red) in the action against the Tweed Tigers in the region’s first AFL Women’s competition. Photo supplied

Laura Small (red) in the action against the Tweed Tigers in the region’s first AFL Women’s competition. Photo supplied

Ross Kendall

Making the switch to start playing Australian Rules Football was a great decision according to the captain of the premiership-winning Lismore Swans Women’s AFl team, Laura Small.

Winning the inaugural northern rivers women’s league was ‘absolutely fantastic’ she said.

‘I’m really happy for all the girls who have played together from the start of the season,’ she said.

Laura played soccer up until she was 18 and is really glad she committed to AFL. After an adjustment period learning the ins and outs of how the game works, she is enjoying every minute she says.

In 2016 male AFL players started inviting women to training and the women’s team grew from that experience she said.

A lot of the Swans Women  weren’t sure at first as there are a lot of new skills and game strategy to learn, but once they get through that, and played a few games, they realised how amazing the game is, Laura said.

The biggest challenge through the year was keeping the momentum of the side and getting 25 players to turn up each week so that there were players fresh from the bench for each game.

Before Lismore had a dedicated side the women went up to play with Gold Coast teams under licence to get valuable game-time experience.

The competition had just three women’s teams in 2017, the Lismore Swans, Ballina Bombers and the Tweed Coast Tigers, and is looking forward to the prospect of the Byron Bay Magpies getting a new team in time for the 2018 season.

‘We will support Byron how we can,’ Laura said. ‘We will be happy to lend them players to make sure they have enough numbers throughout the year.

‘Anyone interested is also welcome to come over and have a training run to see how it all works,’ she said.

Lack of skills and fitness are no barriers to getting started in the game, she said.

‘Players will find many in exactly the same boat and they’ll really enjoy developing their understanding of the sport with each other,’ she said.

‘There are also plenty of players to cover the space on the field so you don’t have to run too far, too often’.

The women in the Swans have backgrounds in soccer, netball and other football codes.

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