Collingwood Super Netball and Collingwood AFLW star Ash Brazill (Picture: AFL, Design by Will Cuckson)

Playing over 70 games for Collingwood Netball in the Suncorp Super Netball League, as well as 24 for the black and white in the AFLW, Ash Brazill has arguably been one of the best female cross-coders in recent memory within both sports.

Starting at a young age, Ash Brazill played every sport that she could with the goal of getting out of school initially. Growing up in the country, she played with the boys and just loved doing so.

Ash Brazill spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum about her journey through the national netball system, to playing for the Australian Diamonds and realising her dream of playing AFL Women’s.

“I played both (Aussie Rules Football and netball) growing up,” Brazill told The Inner Sanctum.

“I played with the boys playing footy then [afterwards] as I was a country kid, mum and dad would run me from one sport to the other. [I’d arrive at] the netball court with my footy socks on and mud everywhere [and] throw [my netball] dress on.

“For me, I just loved sports so anything I could do I would gravitate to, especially if it meant I got a day off school but for [myself], my brother, mum and dad, we just all loved sports so I think growing up with parents that played sport and loved it, it was pretty easy to fall into.”

When speaking about the role that her parents have had in her sporting journey, it’s evident that Brazill’s tenacity and resilience has served her well across her storied career thus far.

“I think the best thing I’ve ever learnt in sport was that ‘never give up’ attitude and [that’s also] something I’ve learnt from my parents as well,” she explained.

“My career in netball hasn’t been the smoothest, like to debut at my first ever Comm Games at 32-years-old, is pretty much not heard of.

“The fact that I didn’t give up or I had a goal in mind and was going to do absolutely anything I could to get there [has served me well], obviously my parents have taught me that but definitely sport has pushed me in that way, [with] all these athletes at this level, you know you’ve got to have some sort of resilience and I put that down to sport teaching me that.”

Being selected with pick 34 in the NAB AFLW Draft in 2017 and making her debut during the 2018 season, Brazill realised her childhood dream of playing Aussie Rules at the highest level.

It was a dream she was not overtly aware of though, until attending the first ever AFLW game between Carlton and Collingwood made her re-think her sporting aspirations.

“For me I moved to Collingwood [Netball] when the first AFLW season started and I was just a netballer, [it] sounds bad saying just a netballer [because] I love being a netballer,” Brazill said.

“We, as a team, went and watched the first AFLW game, Carlton [versus] Collingwood, obviously it was that big lockout. I remember sitting in the crowd and for me, it was the first time ever being jealous and I just wanted to be out on that field so badly.

“[Just] knowing that I can play footy [and] I’ve played it before and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do but knew obviously wasn’t a pathway yet when I was young so netball took over.

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“For me it’s just my passion, when I talk about playing netball, I put a cape on and this alter-ego comes out but when I play football, it’s 100 per cent Ash Brazill and I just feel like a kid running around with the biggest smile on her face.”

When asked what playing elite netball brings to the game of AFLW, Brazill says it’s the ability to find space and her composure that has helped the most.

“I haven’t had any issue crossing codes, I don’t know why I haven’t tackled anyone on a netball court but maybe it’s something about having a dress on one game and footy shorts on the next [that] makes it a lot easier,” Brazill chuckled.

“I think both the [sporting] codes compliment each other pretty well, when I’m on the footy field it helps just coming from a netball court that is just 30 metres, having so much space helps and being able to read the ball because I’ve learnt how to do that on such a small space so there’s definitely elements that I take from one to the other and I think playing footy only makes me a better netballer.”

With a Commonwealth Games debut in sight, Brazill made the decision to step away from the AFLW for Season Six. Putting her football dream on hold paid dividends for her as she walked away with the gold medal as part of the Australian Diamond’s Commonwealth campaign in Birmingham, which was Australia’s 1000th gold medal in the games’ history.

She explained the decision behind temporarily giving away AFLW in favour of Birmingham.

“That was always the plan [for me], I signed a two-year deal with Collingwood AFLW, so my first year was the year that I stepped down to focus on [the] Commonwealth games,” she said.

“I’m very thankful that my coach supported that, but the plan was always to play the second year. It was the fact that it changed [that made things harder], the season was meant to be [2023] in January, it got moved forward now so I had two days off between Comm games and AFLW pre-season but it was well-worth it and I’m very happy to be back playing footy.”

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More Crossing Codes

    Having been part of the Australian team that won the historic 1000th Commonwealth Games gold, Brazill describes the final and how it felt to beat Jamaica given the earlier round loss at their hands.

    “We actually didn’t know about the 1000th gold medal at all until basically the next day. We were just so rapt that we won gold, to lose in the rounds and in the end be able to beat Jamaica in the final game, it was pretty special,” Brazill said.

    “Something that Stacey [Marinkovich], our coach did really well was just embrace the whole team and not just the team but the squad [as a whole]. She spoke about it [the fact that] doesn’t matter if you are on court when the final siren goes, or if you are on the bench or even if you are at home because you are not in the actual team, we need everyone to be as strong as each other to actually win a gold.

    “It’s very easy to say that and hope people buy in but to actually get the whole team to buy in, I don’t know how she did it but she did it and that’s stayed true to us this whole Comm Games.

    “You can even tell with our bench in that final quarter, I don’t think the bench sat down that whole quarter and to just have their support you know the whole crowd was against you was pretty special and it was an incredible moment.”

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    As the 33-year-old looks back on her career so far, which has included a second place finish in the Collingwood Netball Best and Fairest, a Commonwealth Games gold medal, a national league MVP for the West Coast Fever as well as captaincy roles within both sports, she still has some goals she should like to accomplish.

    “I think [a highlight for me was] making the All-Australian team in the AFLW and making the Diamonds [team] in both in 2019. For me, 2019 was my best sporting career year ever, to make both [the All-Australian] and Australian [Diamonds] sides [was amazing],” she said.

    “I think I got runner up MVP in both teams [as well] so if I could re-live that year again, I definitely would and something I want to achieve, it’s a premiership so I’ve got my gold medal but to win a premiership in SSN or AFLW is my goal.”

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