This article was written by Caitlin Arnold.
They call her ‘Squid’ because her arms – and legs – bare a lot of ink, but new GWS GIANTS recruit Phoebe Monahan will be looking to make a new name for herself during her debut AFL Women’s season in 2018.
As one of the six new GIANTS to come from playing in the New South Wales and ACT area, Monahan helps add alocal flavour to the team, joining another nine players from the region who continued on from the 2017 squad.
With AFL Women’s running on a state-based Draft, where players nominate one state they wish to play in, the GIANTS have a competitive balance of local players and interstaters, being one of the more hybrid teams in the competition.
While the GIANTS have had a great amount of interest from Victorian players wanting to join their club this year, they continue to rely on local players to fill out their list, connecting them to the community for which they play for and in.
Monahan, who comes to the GIANTS from the AFL Sydney competition – where she is a back-to-back Premiership player – now finds herself as a teammate to her cross-town footy rivals, but says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I find it quite cool,” says Monahan.
“I didn’t know them. I knew who they were of course, but I didn’t know them personally. I’m really enjoying getting to know them and it will be pretty cool to play against them back at the local level.
“But for now, I’m more than happy to be playing alongside them.”
A sapper in the Australian Defence Force, Monahan has quickly become known to GIANTS fans as one of the fitter players on the squad. With a cross-fit background and routine being a daily habit in the ADF, Monahan says the inevitable step up from AFL Sydney to AFL Women’s hasn’t been too much of a shock.
“Through the army I am used to discipline and all that stuff, so I’m loving it.
“It’s definitely a step up. I was obviously really nervous before the practice game we played, but within two minutes I felt comfortable and I was ready on the field. I was just happy to be playing the game.”
A 2017 AFL Sydney Representative player, Monahan also finished third in the league’s Best and Fairest, behind her now GIANTS teammate, Nicola Barr (Sydney University Bombers) and GIANTS Captain, Amanda Farrugia (Macquarie University Warriors), the eventual winner of the 2017 Mostyn Medal.
Adding another AFL Sydney club as the home of a GIANTS player, Melissa Freckelton of the Western Wolves was also picked up by the team from Western Sydney, as a free agent post-last year’s AFLW Draft. As a result, five AFL Sydney Women’s Premier Division clubs are now represented in the AFL Women’s competition, proving the local competition is on the rise.
With AFL NSW/ACT reporting a 78% growth in female football participation in the region since the start of the AFLW competition, it seems the GIANTS will be well supported with new talent in seasons to come.
“The interest in women’s footy is crazy,” explains Freckelton.
“We had so many new girls who came on board last year, saying they had seen AFLW. They had never played before but they just really wanted to be a part of it.
“The skill level [in AFL Sydney] has gone up. Obviously, there were girls coming back from the AFLW [last season] and they all went up another level.”
Freckelton has been playing within the AFL Sydney competition for a number of years, but she too came to the game later in life, before finding herself on the AFL’s biggest stage.
Moving to Sydney from Canowindra – “probably about 45 minutes from Orange” – Freckelton played every sport other than AFL growing up. Hockey, touch, soccer, but it wasn’t until she was looking for a new challenge that the Sherrin was placed in her hands.
“I was playing soccer, which I had been playing forever, and I just thought I’d like to try something different and my partner said to come and play footy.
“She said ‘I bet you can’t kick a drop punt’ – challenge accepted!”
And here Freckelton stands, as one of the 30 listed players by the GWS GIANTS AFL Women’s team.
Both Monahan and Freckelton join Jodie Hicks, Courtney Gum, Pippa Smyth and Rookie, Haneen Zreika as the new local recruits at the GWS GIANTS – a team that truly represents their community in the AFLW competition.
You can see the GWS GIANTS take on Carlton in Round 2 of the AFL Women’s competition this Friday, February 9 at Drummoyne Oval. Kick-off is at 7.05pm, but get in early as tickets are FREE and spots will fill up quick!