This is the longest I have gone without playing sport since I was a child so to say I am pumped about the fact footy is back this weekend would be an understatement. While my 30-plus-year-old body had somewhat of a break, I still managed to find ways to push myself to exhaustion by working on my family’s farm.
Last year was a shocker and everyone’s lives have been impacted in some way. When the season was called off during our finals campaign last year it was hard to take. AFLW players sacrifice so much to compete but at the end of the day a game of footy versus the health and safety of everyone is not even a discussion.
Kearney in action during the semi-final win against Collingwood in March last year, before the season was called off.Credit:Getty Images
For those who don’t know me, I am a bit of an introvert and quite frankly, I loved the first part of lockdown. But after a while it started to get me down. I missed my family and friends back in Melbourne. I missed my daily routines and I missed playing sport. I had to work on staying positive and used my daily exercise regime to boost my mental health. I also used impromptu phone conversations with friends or family to keep me up and about.
All AFLW players have shown incredible grit and determination to prepare themselves for the season. Being part-time athletes and juggling full-time work always has its challenges, even more so during a pandemic. We have nurses, doctors, police and fire officers who have worked many hours of overtime and others are on the COVID-19 front lines working seven days a week to ensure the safety of the community. There’s no shortage of inspiration to draw on and that’s without a ball even being kicked.
I truly hope all our fans and supporters of AFLW come out in force to cheer us on after what has been a challenging year for everyone. I sincerely wish that the resumption of our great game will bring some normality back to people’s lives and provide an outlet for us all to wash away the frustrations of the past 12 months.
After all, there’s a lot of unfinished business, so the 2021 AFLW season will be one to watch.
Emma Kearney is North Melbourne’s AFLW captain.
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