FEMALES FIND THEIR FEET ON THE FIELD
It’s only February but it’s already been an incredibly exciting year for football and for women with the launch of the AFLW league. As a hotel group with our roots in Melbourne, we were quick to get behind the Melbourne Football Club women’s team and pledged our support as a sponsor for marquee player Melissa Hickey.
Melissa has shown an uncompromised determination on the football field and has been touted as the best central defender in women's football. She is strong, courageous, clever and capable and has an acute ability to read the play, working quickly to attack and clear the ball.
A Geelong supporter before she donned the Melbourne jersey, her heart beats true for the red and the blue now. Melissa spends her days either training, playing or working as a community coordinator for Melbourne FC, a professional on and off the field. We caught up with Melissa after the Dees round two win over Collingwood at Ikon Park and got her point of view on what it’s like being a fierce woman on the field.
Art Series Hotel Group: What’s been the biggest challenge about getting on the field as a player in the first season of AFLW?
Melissa Hickey: I think the biggest challenge has been to balance all of the various commitments, which is not new to us juggling football and work but I think the increased intensity and time commitment has been challenging. Late nights and early mornings are always hard but it all feels worth it when you get to run out in the red and blue on a weekend!
ASHG: There seems to be a real camaraderie between many of the league players, despite the team they are a part of which is so nice to see. What drives that?
MH: It is quite unique that we are playing against our previous teammates and players that will be our teammates again in May when we go back to our VFL clubs. My local team Darebin Falcons has had 16 players drafted so when we play the Bulldogs, Carlton and GWS there will be some really great friends that I will have to line up against. Because of this connection there is so much mutual respect between us but at the same time we are all competitive athletes so I know we will give our all and then hug each other after the game and leave it all on the field. I think we all know that we support each other no matter what and that what we are doing as a collective is having such a remarkable effect on the community and young girls and boys.
ASHG: What’s been the best thing to come out of being named as one of Melbourne’s marquee players?
MH: I think the best thing to come out of being a Marquee player is the opportunities that have come and the various amazing people I have been able to meet. I was so fortunate to attend the Brownlow medal, be part of the Grand Final parade, go on a trip to Africa and climb Mt Kilimanjaro and take part in lots of different media opportunities. The power of the AFL is just amazing and so is the level to which the public loves this great game. I have been given so many fantastic opportunities off the field and all because I am a footballer, it blows my mind sometimes!
ASHG: Did you ever think that this day would come and AFLW would launch?
MH: I knew it would come but I thought it would be well after I finished playing. When Gil announced 2017 was going to be the year I knew I had to part of it!
ASHG: In your mind, what is the best thing about the launch of AFLW?
MH: I think the best thing is that one of the biggest and most respected organisations in our country, the AFL is recognising women; it is saying that it values us and it is going to celebrate women as athletes. I think for so long society has placed such an emphasis on women’s appearance and young girls are raised with the belief that what their body looks like is more important than the amazing things it can do. I think the best thing is that society and young girls are going to see that women’s bodies are being celebrated for being amazing, powerful, strong and beautiful and that it doesn’t matter what they look like, what matters is how they play footy!
ASHG: Has it always been your dream to play professional football?
MH: It was definitely my dream as a young girl; however once I realised that girls weren’t able to play AFL I pursued other sports and my studies. I still pinch myself that I am playing in the AFL and being paid to do so, it’s just amazing!
ASHG: Who has inspired you most on your journey?
MH: My mum and dad are big inspirations for me. I nearly lost my Dad 2 years ago and he now has a disability that affects him every day. My mum cares for him full time and to see her do what she does every day for my family and for my dad, so selflessly, with such grace and kindness, she is just the most incredible woman. Dad inspires me every day with his fight and his humour and his love for us. He was the reason I wanted to be a footballer as he was too. He was my biggest hero as a kid and he still is. He worked so hard for my family so that we could be anything we want to be and I am inspired to be the best I can be for him and mum. I am very lucky to have such amazing parents.
Show your support of women and football and head along to a game. Full fixture here: http://www.afl.com.au/womens/matches