HEADING to the Showdown at Adelaide Oval this Saturday? If you get there early, you might see a familiar face running around and kicking a footy.
Murray Bridge woman Jess Schulz is playing in the SANFL Women’s All Stars match held as a curtain-raiser to the Crows v Power AFL match on April 2.
Schulz, 24, was selected as part of a 50-woman squad after more than 100 attended the four trials held this year, and found out on Wednesday night that she would be a member of one of two teams that play against each other for the game.
It’s not a bad effort for someone who only started playing competitive football last year.
“I would have loved to have played growing up but there were no women’s teams around so was never given the opportunity, so I got into playing soccer instead,” she said.
“But my two brothers played so there was always a ball laying around the house and I enjoyed getting out and having a kick any chance I got.
“Then last year a soccer friend said she was going to play footy so I jumped on the opportunity.”
The Murraylands Aquatic Centre aquatics instructor signed up to join the Adelaide Uni Women’s Football Club, and has enjoyed time on the field as a rover, wing, half forward flank, and sometimes forward pocket.
She has learned the game is not for the faint-hearted, but enjoys its roughness and toughness.
“It’s a game that uses so many different skills and different areas of fitness,” she said.
“There is both a physical and mental aspect to the game.
“I enjoy the tackling; I enjoy running with the ball with someone hot on your tail knowing one wrong move could end up getting you flattened.”
Since then, she has yearned to learn more, and discovered the All Stars trials through her club.
She decided to trial and thought that even if she wasn’t successful, it was a great training session.
“They have great coaches and the girls are the best in the state so it makes you push yourself harder, and every session I’m learning so much more,” she said.
“The aim was always to make the side but I went into the trials carrying a few injuries, so all I expected of myself was to do my best at each trial and see where I landed.”
She attended three of the first four trials before the first cut, then another two sessions before the second cut.
“It was really hard to tell how you were going in the trials with so many fit and skilled girls out there,” she said.
“I knew I had done my best but still had no idea what email I was going to get.”
On the 16th of March, Schulz received an email to say she had made the squad while she was at work.
“I got a colleague to read the email and tell me my fate,” she said.
“The guys at work have been real supportive of my football career.”
Another three trainings were held before the final teams were selected, and finding out she had made the team was a relief.
“I had trained so hard it was great reward to know it had done some good,” she said.
Now she will play at the mecca of South Australian football before the clash between the state’s two AFL clubs.
“(We) have the opportunity to represent and advertise women’s football and build more teams so we can give more girls the opportunity to play,” he said.
She said the growing popularity of women’s football was positive to see, and its current status was “heading in the right direction”.
“Men have been able to play in both local leagues and for the AFL for such a long – it’s about time women were given the same opportunity,” she said.
You can watch the live stream of the match online from 10.15am on Saturday at http://www.aflcommunityclub.com.au/index.php?id=495.