La Trobe Bachelor of Physical and Outdoor Education graduate Emma Grant has been selected in the Inaugural Women’s AFL draft.
We spoke with Grant about her trailblazing football career, landing her dream job and why Bendigo will always be home.
Congratulations on being drafted to Collingwood in the league’s first year. How does it feel to, essentially, be part of history?
It’s been a week since it was announced, and it’s just starting to sink in. It’s an absolute honour to be part of the Collingwood Football Club and to be drafted into the first ever Women’s AFL.
When I started playing football as a little girl with the boys, I never thought for a moment we’d have our own AFL in the following twenty years or so.
It’s an exciting time not just for Women’s AFL but women’s sport in general in Australia.
What does it mean for you that women can now play in the AFL?
I started playing football when I was eight years old. I was the first girl to ever play for the Gisborne Bulldogs and I was the only girl in the whole league at that point. Some parents found it a bit odd. They boys in my team were fantastic and looked after me, even though they’d say I didn’t really need much looking after.
Obviously I had to finish when I was 12 years old because that was the rule back then. We actually won the premiership in my last game, and I never thought for a moment I would be able to get out and play again – especially at an elite level. So, I took up my second love, which was netball.
What’s really exciting for me will be to see the girls come up in the next five to ten years that didn’t have to stop playing football. I just can’t wait to see the talent that comes through with these girls that didn’t have to take a break and were able to play football from such a young age the whole way through their teens.
The Women’s All-Star match pulled huge TV ratings. The current #BootsOff campaign for equal pay is also gaining a lot of support. Have you been surprised by the general public’s overwhelming interest and support in Women’s AFL?
The All-Stars game had the best Saturday night AFL ratings of the year, which is just phenomenal. Obviously the support is great. It’s getting a whole different level of supporters. Men and women who aren’t footy fans are interested now that women have come on board.
In regard to the pay, we’re just after equality and fairness. We need to be paid the same as the men for the same hours we train and play. It’s also about the terms and conditions of the contract.
I’m a full-time teacher and I’ve got a mortgage. If I’m going to represent the Collingwood Football Club and the AFL, I need to know that they’re going to look after me if I get injured. The men are covered in their contracts, and we just want the same. We just want what’s fair.
How are you planning to balance work and football?
That’s a tough one, I’ll see how it goes. I live in Bendigo, so that’s probably the toughest part because I’ll be travelling for training and matches. I want to be able to give 100 per cent to my job and if I’m going down to Melbourne three times a week, then I probably won’t be able to give five days of full-time work, so I may have to drop a day.
That’s where the equal pay comes in again. The men don’t have to balance work and football because they’re full-time athletes.
I imagine the children you teach were pretty inspired to hear you’d been drafted?
Yeah, they’re a fantastic bunch of students and families. We have assembly on Fridays and after singing the National Anthem, the kids then sang the Collingwood theme song, which was really cool. Some of them came in their Collingwood jerseys. I had heaps of congratulations and high-fives, they were pretty stoked.
Why did you choose to become an Outdoor Ed and PE teacher, and to study with us?
During VCE, I really enjoyed my Outdoor Ed and PE subjects and came across the La Trobe course in the VTAC guide. I thought ‘that is my dream job: to be a PE and Outdoor Ed teacher’. I grew up in Gisborne, so the Bendigo campus wasn’t too far away either. I was pretty lucky in that regard.
I’ve got only fantastic memories of my time at La Trobe Bendigo and I made some really great friendships too. I did Uni Games for La Trobe and it was a fantastic university to be part of.
You studied in Bendigo, you work in Bendigo and you were captain of Bendigo Thunder. It sounds like you really love Bendigo and you’re really a part of the community. What is it that you love about living, working and (previously) studying in a regional city?
Bendigo has become my home and it’s where I want to be. A lot of people have been asking whether I’ll be moving to Melbourne now and I say ‘no’. Bendigo has a fantastic feel about it.
The Bendigo community is something I hadn’t experienced before. This year has been the biggest for me, with Bendigo Thunder being successful, and we’ve just had so much support from the community.
I would recommend anyone to live or study in Bendigo. Being in the rural landscape and having kangaroos hopping around outside your lecture theatres is pretty cool.
Find out about studying Sports Management at La Trobe.