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“If I had to become Prime Minister to change the rules …”: Katherine Smith’s AFL dream

Katherine Smith was just a little girl when she told her parents she wanted to be Prime Minister of Australia.

“I’ve always wanted to play at the AFL at the elite level,” Smith said.

But when Smith was growing up, AFL was a sport associated with men and at that time only men competed at the elite level.

“I told my parents that even if I had to become prime minister to change the rules so that I could play AFL, then I would,” she said.

“I was young and was unsure of what it meant to be Prime Minister of Australia.”

Like many current AFLW players, Smith grew up in an era when young women who aspired to play in the AFL had only male athletes to aspire to.

“Growing up, male players were my heroes,” she says.

“My brother was also my hero and he played AFL and I followed in his footsteps.

“I was lucky to have had elite courses when I was 12; I played with Izzy Huntington and I also knew Meg Hutchins, so when I got into the female space I had a few models.

“But it’s not like the girls who come now to see the AFLW on TV, on social media and everywhere.”

Isabel Huntington of the Western Bulldogs (Photo by Michael Willson / AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Most importantly, AFLW isn’t just a game-changer for the next generation of women.

“It’s not just the little girls that we see in the crowd,” says Smith.

“Young boys come down, whole families come to support the competition.

“It’s great that soccer is a game for everyone and that it is becoming so normal.”

Smith currently plays for GWS, which opened its AFLW campaign with a 15-point victory over the Gold Coast on Sunday.

After the Giants’ Bec Beeson scored the first goal of the game, the first half of the game was a close struggle, with the Sydneysiders only one point behind at halftime.

But after half-time, GWS asserted their dominance and a goal from Cora Staunton in the fourth quarter sealed the victory.

Smith herself scored a goal in the second term.

“It was a fantastic feeling,” says Smith.

“But it was dead up front so it would have been a bit awkward if I had missed it.

“It was good to help the front line and score one for the team.”

But while what happens on the pitch is hugely important and many have commented on the improvement in the quality of football in the first round, for many AFLW players it is about more.

“There are so many amazing people in AFLW who have different lives and are on different paths,” says Smith.

Smith pointed out women like Daisy Pearce who plays so many roles; that of an elite footballer, football commentator, midwife and mother.

Or Darcy Vescio, who recently came out as non-binary.

“Darcy was extremely vulnerable and we are all proud of them and they know we love and support them,” Smith said.

“Anyone who uses their platform to change the world is awesome and a lot of our players are doing it.

“AFLW is a competition that allows everyone to be themselves; we’re not just athletes and there’s something really special about that.

“If I had to become Prime Minister to change the rules …”: Katherine Smith’s AFL dream

Darcy Vescio. (Photo by Adam Trafford / AFL Media / Getty Images)

Smith herself overcame an injury to continue playing at the elite level. Following a torn ACL in 2020 that saw her miss the entire 2020 season, she joined the Giants for a disrupted 2021 pandemic.

While Smith is not “grateful” for tearing her ACL and does not wish a player an injury, it was a defining moment in her career.

“I don’t mean to say that the injury is the best thing that has ever happened to me, because there have been a lot of days off, but it gave me the opportunity to put my body in a better athletic position” , she says.

“It’s a tough injury, but I’m trying to look for the positives and how I’ve improved since that injury is due to my rehabilitation and the intense focus I had on my knee during that time. ”

The Giants’ next game is this Sunday, against the Fremantle Dockers at Whitten Oval.

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