GWS Giants young gun Zarlie Goldsworthy (Picture: GWS Giants, Design by Will Cuckson)

In her first year in the AFL Women’s competition, Greater Western Sydney Giants forward Zarlie Goldsworthy showed she belonged at the level. Playing behind some of the best midfielders and forwards in the league, she will only grow as an Aussie Rules player, having transitioned from the soccer pathway.

Coming from a relatively successful junior soccer career, which included a stint as a junior Matilda, Zarlie Goldsworthy was initially drawn to other sports before finding Aussie Rules Football. Being influenced to play these other sports, she eventually decided to turn to the AFLW pathway because of greater opportunities.

Zarlie Goldsworthy spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum about her cross-coding journey so far including her debut in the AFLW, her junior soccer career and her goals moving forward in the league.

“I played soccer and cricket [growing up],” Goldsworthy told The Inner Sanctum.

“I initially was drawn to soccer because of my siblings, my brother and sister were playing and also my friends were playing so I just kind of got influenced by them and got drawn into it.”

She then explained how significant the junior Matilda’s selection was to her and how it changed her mindset in elite sport going forward. Growing up on the border of New South Wales and Victoria, her access to this kind of coaching and development was too good to refuse.

“It was pretty exciting [to be selected], especially because of where we are in the country [and the fact that] there are probably not that many pathways for soccer,” she said.

“[For me] to be recognised for that, it was kind of like I had a foot in the door and I had an opportunity at the elite level to be coached properly and all of that so that’s kind of the reason why I decided to move to Sydney for two years and get that coaching [was] to try and explore that opportunity.”

Always having a passion for the game, Australian Rules Football was in Goldworthy’s life for as long as she can remember. Growing up during a successful era for the Hawthorn AFL team only helped to foster her love of the game, until it was made a reality for women in 2017.

“I think I was just always passionate about it even if I couldn’t play,” Goldsworthy explained.

“The men’s game really drew me towards it. As I was growing up I was a Hawthorn supporter, so them being in four grand finals in a row and winning three of them definitely helped [to get me into Aussie Rules Football.

“[I had] idols that [I] wanted to be kind of like one day but not quite because there wasn’t the women’s competition so when that came into play that just drew me in because it showed that there was a path for someone like me who wanted to play.”

Having had the prior opportunities in the elite under-age soccer pathway, Goldsworthy reflects on what this coaching had on her transition to the AFLW after being drafted in the off-season of Season Six (2022).

“I think it’s just the professionalism [that I brought to the Giants from my time in soccer], as I said I was probably in the program fairly young and to be taught those ways pretty early was a huge help going into a program like [the] AFLW and the Giants,” she said.

“[I also] just [had] that respect towards the coaches, [which] is really big in soccer and where I went to school at Westfield Sports High they held that pretty closely, that [respect shown by] thanking coaches and that after sessions and just [providing] that professional environment.”

On draft night Goldsworthy was a consideration to go higher with the plethora of picks that the Sydney Swans had but eventually she went with the first pick that the Giants had. Nominating the New South Wales pool ahead of the draft, she was hoping to find a home as one of the best talents available to the two teams.

“I was definitely nervous [ahead of the draft], I’m not kind of the person that really believes something until it’s set in stone, you can be told all you want that leading up to something this is how it’s going to happen but you never know,” Goldsworthy said.

“I was very nervous and I was definitely going in with high hopes as to where I would end up, thankfully I couldn’t have wished to come to a better club and the Giants have been great and that sort of thing so I was very relieved to get there.”

Having lived in Sydney prior to her being drafted to the Giants, Goldsworthy described how she feels moving from Albury back to the city for the opportunity in the AFLW and how comfortable she has been making the move.

“It’s been great moving back, I really did enjoy it in Sydney and obviously there’s more to do here than a small country town,” she said.

“In terms of the club, I guess just the genuine care that the coaches and players have for each other [is something I’ve noticed], I wouldn’t say I was surprised but I was taken aback a bit.

“I feel like coming from soccer, there’s a bit of that competitiveness and it didn’t seem like there was a genuine care between players at times just because we are so young and if we are trying to fight for spots then there might be inner feelings coming towards [each other].

“In terms of the football there, I think that the most care has come from the girls coming off the field who genuinely care for the players on the field but no hint of jealousy or anything like that if they are not picked or anything of the sort.”

Coming off her first season where she played nine games, Goldsworthy impressed with 2.3 in her debut against the Sydney Swans in the ‘Battle of the Bridge’. With a full pre-season under her belt she will be better for the run now understanding what it requires to play in the league.

Having finished juggling school and AFLW last season, Goldsworthy will only get better with more time being spent with the focus on her wayward kicking and bulking up for more midfield time in 2023. Having showed her natural power and athleticism in her debut season, she will look to push her case as a regular starter going forward.

“[When looking at goals for next season] my composure in front of goal is a big one, even stemming from the NAB league, I probably scored more points than goals,” she said.

“At this point even now I think I’ve kicked [three goals and nine points] and two out on the full or something like that and that doesn’t look great. If I can fix that up [that would be great] because it’s definitely easier to fix the execution than getting into the right spots.

“I’ll definitely work on that in the off-season and then getting stronger too, I think coming into the AFLW has kind of shown me a taste for what gym programs that they set for us and how strong that the other girls are.”

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