This article was written by Caitlin Arnold.
One of many unique attributes of the AFL Women’s competition is the outstanding resolve and pressure it takes for some of the players to be dual-athletes.
A feat nowhere to be seen in the men’s league, playing more than one sport at a national level – sometimes even during the same time period – is currently a given for these women who have a pure love for what they do.
In the AFLW, 2017 Best and Fairest winner, Erin Phillips switched from playing basketball in the United States to join the Premiership winning Adelaide Crows, and only recently retired from her much-loved round ball game to concentrate on the one sport.
The Western Bulldogs’ Emma Kearney, like the GWS GIANTS’ Jodie Hicks, has spent her summers playing both AFLW and WBBL.
Similarly, the GIANTS also house another dual-athlete in Ellie Brush, who has taken her skills as a W-League soccer player from the Western Sydney Warriors, across Parramatta River to GIANTS HQ in Homebush.
Joining a long list of AFLW players to have made their start in another sport at a high level, new GIANTS player Elle Bennetts has crossed not only an interstate boarder, but a sporting boarder to join the team from Western Sydney.
As a netballer-come-footballer, Bennetts came to Sydney this year after another 2018 GIANTS recruit, Alicia Eva convinced her to attend an AFLW testing day at the club in 2017.
“Alicia Eva and I went to primary school together, so we’ve known each other for quite a while,” Bennetts explains.
“She planted the seed to come up to the testing day.”
Not long after, Bennetts was selected as a Rookie from another sport and this year, she finds herself living in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs as a bona fide footballer.
Having played for the Victorian Fury in the Australian Netball League – the feeder competition to the national Suncorp Super Netball league – Bennetts has won more Premierships than your average sports star. Forget Hawthorn’s AFL ‘three-peat’ from 2013-2015, Bennetts brings with her to the GIANTS, the strength and will it takes to claim four titles in a row.
The benefits of being a dual athlete mean that Bennetts is able to provide a set of already honed skills, aiding her transition from the netball court to the footy field.
“Things like agility and special awareness, and working in small spaces,” Bennetts says on the netball skills she can move into AFLW skills.
“But then, being able to see past the congestion too. I feel like I’ve got good composure as well.”
Upon selecting Bennetts in the AFLW side, new GIANTS Coach Al McConnell labelled her decision-making skills as one of her key strengths. Playing a mid-role on the netball court, Bennetts’ fitness also made her desirable for the fast-paced competition.
And if you think four Premierships is impressive – which it certainly is – enter Cora Staunton to the GIANTS, another multi-Premiership winning player, who has now played across four different codes of football. That’s right, four.
Known best for her legend status within the Gaelic Football code in Ireland, Staunton has also played soccer and rugby union, and as of last weekend, is a fully-fledged AFLW player, making her debut against Melbourne.
While Staunton is a relatively ‘unknown’ player to the Australian audience for now, she is widely touted as one of the top Irish athletes of all time.
Unique in her approach to the footy and admittedly still getting used to the AFLW’s oddly shaped ball, Staunton joined the rare club of kicking a goal on debut last weekend – an exciting feat that can only light the fire of GIANTS fans for the 2018 season.
You can see the GWS GIANTS AFLW side take on Carlton this Friday, February 9 at 7.05pm for FREE at Drummoyne Oval. Get in quickly!