Former Mt Clear footballer Sally Riley is now a premiership player after the Adelaide Crows wrote itself into the history books as the AFL Women’s first premier.
Adelaide prevailed over the previously undefeated Brisbane Lions by six points – 4.11 (35) to 4.5 (29).
Riley said it was an “unbelievable day” and while the honour associated with being part of the inaugural AFL Women’s premiership was substantial, equally as fulfilling is the example the women’s league has set for budding girls footballers.
As Riley was presented with her medal by one of the junior Auskick girls, her message was exactly that.
“One day this could be you” Riley told the young Auskicker.
Riley expressed her joy to The Courier on Saturday night.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet, I think I’ll wake up tomorrow with the medal next to my bed and think “yep, that was a pretty good day yesterday” – unbelievable effort from everyone involved.
“It’s something special that I’ll hold with me forever.
“It’s surreal, it does make it special knowing that no one will ever be the first again.
“There was so many young girls there today and they can now say I want to do that one day…it’s pretty special to create history, but also be that role model and inspiration for young girls out there.”
Riley first pulled on a pair of boots as an eight-year-old for Auskick at Mt Clear College and her football journey has been shaped by some tough, but rewarding, decisions.
The hard calls over the last five years were all made worthwhile following the premiership victory.
Riley moved to Darwin in 2013 which allowed her to continue her work as a teacher and above all play both football and netball – given the opposing football season fixture in Darwin.
But in order to give her the best opportunity of being drafted, she gave netball up in June of last year to commit fully to her football dream.
Watching her A grade netball side lose the grand final by a goal was extremely difficult, but her journey since being drafted has vindicated the tough decisions.
“Never did I think making that tough choice would see me end up where I am today.
“But it’s those little things and sacrifices that make it all worth it now.”
The rise from local footballer to the nation’s elite has been a dramatic one.
“It’s like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. Having only ever played netball for fun locally, we pay our fees and rock up for training then have some beers after the game. Now you’ve got this elite environment with superb coaches, training drills, nutrition program, video reviews.”