Courtney Rowley looks to be a star of the future and inspire a new generation in a league that was non-existent and inaccessible to her when she was a young girl.
For Rowley, her journey began at Rushton Park, playing for Mandurah Mustangs at 12 years old.
From there, she was picked up by Peel Thunder where she played in the Rogers Cup – the women’s equivalent of Colts for a few years, before earning a place in the League side where she has stayed for the past three years.
But before she even played football in an organised team, she has always been drawn to Australia’s game and wanted to go to the top level.
Prior to 2016, a woman playing in the men’s league was more possible than a woman playing in a women’s league, which is remarkable given where we are at now.
With talent pathways growing, a professional league to aspire to, and state leagues galore, all of a sudden a woman playing in a men’s league becomes the more impossible goal.
Having gone through the pathways over the past few years, she said the opportunities available for girls now are ‘amazing’.
“When I was a little girl kicking the footy, I didn’t actually play, but I always thought ‘Oh, maybe I could be the first girl to play in the men’s program’,” Rowley told The Inner Sanctum.
“But now we have our own, it’s amazing that young girls can aspire to have that now. We didn’t really have that so it’s an awesome opportunity for younger girls.”
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Many have predicted her to go early on in WA’s pool, which is a testament to her talent as a footballer. Now she’s a West Coast Eagles player, taken with pick 21.
Young girls and boys will look up to her on the football field for years to come, and she is a shining example of what a woman’s AFL pathway can produce.
Some will even utter the words ‘Courtney Rowley is my favourite player’ in the future.
When faced with the prospect of becoming a role model for those who hope to be like her, she is more than happy to embrace that role.
“It feels so good [knowing I can be a role model] because I love putting a smile on people’s faces,” she said.
“If I can get drafted and do that for young girls or anyone that’s aspiring to be like me, then that will be so good. Just putting a smile on their face, giving them something to look up to.”
Since starting, not only is she primed for draft success, but she has won a WAFLW premiership in 2020, played in the 2019 AFLW U19s championship, and consequently, was awarded a place on the wing in the competition’s All Australian side and has been a member of the WA and AFL’s Women’s talent academies.
However, her run in the WAFLW was cut short this year, with only a handful of rounds left in the season plus finals.
She revealed she has an ankle injury, which was supposed to keep her out of the game for four to six weeks, but she decided to focus on getting back to full strength in time for the AFLW combine.
Focusing on the positives got her through her stint on the sidelines, especially when she missed out on Peel Thunder’s second premiership earlier this month.
“I just thought about the positives,” she said.
“I could’ve played at 80 per cent but there are people in my team that were at a 100 per cent.
“You’ve gotta think about the positives, like there’s a reason why I’m not doing it, to perform well at things like this, and maybe hopefully if I get drafted, go into preseason 100 per cent, instead of 50 if I injure it again.”
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