Tumut’s Stephanie Walker will share in a slice of women’s AFL history this week.
On April 9, Steph will walk onto the Sydney Cricket Ground to play the first female AFL match on the ground.
22-year-old Steph was selected from the best of the best to represent the Sydney Swans as a part of the second round of the female Academy Games, with the Swans facing the GWS Giants.
With only four years of playing AFL under her belt Steph’s rise has been swift and steep.
She was named Sydney AFL’s most valuable woman player in 2014 and selected into the AFL NSW/ACT Academy earlier this year.
Now, Steph has been selected from over 200 women to play in a ground-breaking match on the SCG ahead of the Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers playoff.
“It feels pretty good to be selected, I’ve played for a while now. The academy started in January and from that they picked the top 24 players for each team,” she said.
“It was based on your training and how you performed in previous games.”
The match is the first time a female team will act as an opener to the Sydney Derby, a fact making Steph’s selection all the more meaningful.
“It’s the first time it’s ever happened, it’s awesome,” she said.
“I’ll definitely be nervous going in. I tend to be before most games but it’s very exciting.”
The match should be close, with each team consisting of the academy’s top players, but Steph likes the Swans’ chances.
“We had an academy game with GWS recently and we won in the last quarter so hopefully we can do it again,” she said.
“It should be a good game, the team had a good run around last weekend, not too serious but it should be a good show this weekend.”
For Steph, who didn’t grow up playing AFL, the rise to the SCG has been sharp, but the young woman has her eyes set on continuing her passion into the future.
“I started in 2012. I played a competition in Sydney and it was fun. Then I got picked up by a club and started working for the AFL is Sydney,” she said.
“For now I do want to keep going and see how far I can go and see what happens. The academy is great, we train three times a week with different elite coaches. It’s great to play and train with people at the same level.”
Next year the AFL is launching an official women’s league, with more than six AFL clubs to take up a female team as a part of a boost to elite female football.
The move offers players like Steph a chance to take football to an even higher and more professional level.
“In 2017, they’ll be having a national draft competition to pick teams and hopefully we get in the draft,” Steph said.
“They’ll be looking at the games this year and finding enough girls to get eight to six teams, so hopefully I’m one of them.