05/03/2024

Ellie Brush has played Aussie Rules Football for the GWS Giants and Football for the Matilda's and Canberra United (Picture: GWS Giants/the Matilda's/Canberra United, Design by Madeline Irwin/Will Cuckson)

With a sporting career sweeping through the A-League Women’s, National Women’s Soccer League and the AFL Women’s competitions, Ellie Brush has become one of the great women’s sporting stories of recent times.

Notching up over 100 games in the A-League Women’s for Canberra United, the Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC as well as 29 NWSL appearances for the Houston Dash and two Matilda’s caps, Ellie Brush retires from professional football with an impressive resume.

In addition to this, is her Aussie Rules career of 20 games from 2017 to 2020 with the GWS Giants, this is her Crossing Codes story.

At the end of her A-League Women’s career, Ellie Brush spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum about her sporting career.

Having not officially playing Australian Rules Football before signing with the Greater Western Sydney Giants Women’s team in its augural year, Brush took a chance on a game she had always loved.

“I’d only played AFL or Aussie Rules in what would have been a primary school sort of carnival game, [that] was probably the experience of actually playing,” Brush told The Inner Sanctum.

“My dad was a footy player himself and played in Canberra for East Lake, his family was a big football family being from Melbourne [and] his uncle actually was the president of the Melbourne Demons back in the 1940s or 1950s.

“I think so I always grew up with a football in hand [and] dad taught me how to kick from a very young age. We were members of the Swans in 1996 when we lived in Sydney for a year, which was a great and sad year for the Swans.

“I’d always loved footy, always loved watching footy, kicking the footy with dad and obviously there was no real women’s competitions available for me to play as a kid in Canberra so I always played soccer and just about every other sport as well growing up.

From an early age despite her love of Australia’s game, Brush went down the football pathway due to more opportunities for women. She explained how she started her AFLW journey which started with a ‘what if’ attitude.

“It was soccer that kind of stole my heart and I kept with [it] and then when they announced the AFLW competition would come in, I stuck my hand up and went to a try-out day.

“[I guess I] was good enough I suppose to [selected by] the Giants in the rookie draft so I thought, yeah I’ll give it a crack and see if I’m good enough.

“I loved the game anyway so I took quite naturally to it and it sort of came second nature to me as well I think.”

After playing 20 games in her three years with the Giants, Brush looked back fondly on her experience playing Australian Rules Football.

“It was a fantastic experience, just that experience of seeing how another sport operates and being able to compare that back to my time [in] professional football, it was really useful in coming back to soccer and being able to take away a lot of the lessons,” she said.

“I suppose more specifically, I think it was [the] AFL that really gave the push to Football Australia that it needed to come in to implement a minimum wage and minimum conditions in the collective bargaining agreement that we hadn’t had in place with the W-League before the AFL Women’s came along.

“It was really impressive from the start as to how big the AFL made the Women’s competition a priority, and it was something I probably hadn’t experienced to that big of an extent, maybe within the Matilda’s national team but not with that national league level in terms of soccer.”

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More Crossing Codes

    Brush credited her AFLW career with being able to change her body and increase her fitness when she returned full-time to football. She also thought that the way that she trained for Australian Rules Football was an asset.

    “We had basically a full-time dietician or nutritionist at the club, which I had never been able to have access to it in ‘soccerland’, and [we] even a bigger staff that included analysts and specialist coaches,” Brush explained.

    “It really opened my eyes to the things that we were kind of missing as well in soccer so I was really glad that I was able to try my hand at footy and have a really good crack at it.

    “I would have liked to go on a bit more but I chose to step away and really focus on football, in terms of the AFLW I was sort of at the highest level that I could go to there. [There was] just that carrot out [in] front of me, that was [being able] to represent your country at international level, and that is just probably what pulled me back to soccer but otherwise I loved playing the game of footy.”

    Being a well-versed athlete that played two different sports at the highest level, it was interesting to hear whether there were any athletes that Brush played with that were ‘on another level’. She spoke about a former teammate at GWS and a few football stars.

    “One [player] that comes to mind immediately from my AFLW days was Cora Staunton,” she said.

    “She’s stepping away as well, [we call her] the Queen of Ireland.

    “[It was] an honour to get to play with her, an amazing athlete in her own right and the star that she is in Ireland, it is amazing that she could bring that to Australia.”

    Cora Staunton (Photo: GWS Giants)

    “Of course I played a lot in football against Sam Kerr, as well and she’s really one that’s stood out as having that athleticism matched with football ability that was able to turn a game at any point.

    “Then [there are] people like Carly Lloyd that I played with in my time in America, [as well as] against Alex Morgan.

    “Being able to sort of play with Carly week-to-week and be on her team, I was able to see the workings of what made her the athlete that she was and I was able to take that away with me and bring that with me into my own game.

    “I think some people as well have that natural ability and Sam Kerr is a really, really good example of that. It’s just that raw, raw talent and that blessing of speed that some of these people have, it really would make life easier to be able to be blessed with the speed and of course they work at it but I think that some of it is natural as well.”

    Sam Kerr (Photo: Matildas)

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