Murray Bridge paramedic Sophie Li will swap her green jumpsuit to don the navy blue next season after being selected by Carlton with pick 28 in the 2017 AFL Women’s draft.
Touted as a natural athlete with strength and speed, Li will add depth to Carlton’s midfield.
After an exceptional season with Norwood in the women’s SANFL competition, she came runner-up in its inaugural best and fairest.
Li also played for Adelaide University, where she won the club’s best and fairest this season.
Carlton’s women’s senior coach Damien Keeping said Li is a prolifical ball-winner and will be a valued asset to the Blues midfield.
... now that there’s this league, it gives women a real opportunity.Sophie Li
“Not only can she run all day through the middle, but she can also make an impact up forward – she knows how to put herself in dangerous positions,” he said.
Naturally, Li was thrilled to have been selected.
“I’ve been kicking the footy for as long as I can remember,” she said. “It’s just fantastic and I’m really, really excited about taking on this new challenge.”
Li had always been surrounded by football, but was unable to continue her passion due to lack of opportunity.
“I played all the way up until I was 11-12 years old, and then I couldn’t go on unfortunately,” she said. “I was always kicking the footy around with the guys and it was disappointing not being able to play as I got older.”
Spending the next several years playing basketball and cricket, the 29-year-old put her footy boots back on about three years ago.
“It was a bit like riding a bike – after the first few sessions and not hitting targets, I felt that it was pretty easy to get back in the swing of it all,” Li said.
With preseason starting on November 20, Li will take leave from her role in Murray Bridge to relocate to Melbourne with her partner, and will stay with family.
She said she would miss her workmates at the Murray Bridge station, as well as her work in the region.
“While I don’t live in Murray Bridge, I’ve worked here for about six years and I’ll definitely miss everyone here and am really grateful for all of their support,” Li said.
The AFLW had provided females the opportuinity to showcase their skills on a national stage, and Li said it could only get better.
“There have always been women’s leagues, but now that there’s this league, it gives women a real opportunity,” she said.
“It makes me happy that younger girls will be able to progress through the ranks.”