Jess Wuetschner: Lions Original

Brisbane’s “Foundation 8”: Jess Wuetschner, Kate Lutkins , Breanna Koenen, Emily Bates, Emma Zielke, Shannon Campbell, Ally Anderson and Sharni Webb. Picture: Brisbane Lions Football Club

Brisbane’s AFLW Premiership was the culmination of a five-year journey, but for original players like Jess Wuetschner, it was worth the wait.

Known by the Lions as the “Foundation 8”, Wuetschner, along with Sharni Webb, Shannon Campbell, Kate Lutkins, Emma Zielke (who has since retired), Ally Anderson, Breanna Koenen, and Emily Bates, were there from the beginning and are the only remaining players from the club’s inaugural 2017 list.

After playing in two losing Grand Finals and seeing a litany of teammates depart, April’s Premiership was a tribute to their loyalty and persistence.

While life is starting to return to normal, Wuetschner is still feeling the joy that comes with being an AFLW Premiership player.

“It’s still a buzz to see bits and pieces coming out. You see photos floating around of us holding the cup which is obviously amazing, and I get to walk past my medal every day,” Jess Wuetschner told The Inner Sanctum.

But at the same time, I’ve kind of been kicked back to reality being back at full-time work now.”

Wuetschner said the premiership was a reward for all the people who have been at the club from the beginning and the players who have joined along the way.

“For us original players, the coaching staff and the CEO Breeanna Brock, who have all been there from the start, it was an amazing reward for what we’ve all been through,” she said.

“Then for the girls that have been there over the last years rebuilding with us and the girls that came in this year, I’ve never been part of such a hard-working group. It’s just really reward for effort.”

Brisbane has been one of the standard-bearers since the AFLW’s inception, making three Grand Finals and only missing out on the finals once.

But this sustained excellence has not been easy, with the Lions losing key players to other teams, particularly to expansion clubs North Melbourne and Gold Coast.

Big-name players like Kaitlyn Ashmore, Sabrina Frederick, Kate McCarthy, Jamie Stanton, Tahlia Randall and Leah Kaslar all departed, but when everyone else was leaving, Wuetschner decided to stay.

This was despite an offer from North Melbourne in 2018, who has a partnership with her home state of Tasmania, with Wuetschner citing her happiness at the Lions as the reason why she did not want to go anywhere else.

“Everyone has different reasons for why’d they move clubs or take another offer, there’s so many different factors. But the only factor for me was that I was happy at the Lions and they had given me a shot originally,” Wuetschner said.

“It was obviously important for me to stay and show my loyalty, but I was also really happy with where I was as well.”

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The Lions’ Premiership defence will start earlier than originally expected this year, with the season scheduled to kick off in December.

Wuetschner admitted that while she did not mind the change, she felt the league could have given the players more heads-up beforehand.

“Straight away I thought, ‘oh, that’s my holiday gone’ and ‘shoot, I don’t have enough time to get myself to where I want to be’,” she said.

“We didn’t have any idea that they were gonna do this, well I didn’t personally. So yeah, it was a bit of a shock to start with.

“I don’t really mind it, it’s just that they kind of did it out of nowhere. So myself and I’m sure other people probably had things planned.

“I know a good friend of mine Sabrina Frederick has her wedding in December which I was meant to go to, which is now probably going to be unlikely.”

But given Brisbane’s track record of handling change and adversity, the reigning Premiers are well-positioned to be thereabouts once again.

Wuetschner cited the Lions’ competitive culture and enjoyable team environment as reasons behind the club’s consistent success.

“I think that comes from a few things. We have great coaching staff and support staff around us that make it enjoyable for us to be there. Every night, in the mornings at 5:00am when we do morning sessions, it is just such a great environment to be a part of,” Wuetschner said.

“We enjoy what we’re doing and we enjoy each other’s company. We really appreciate each other and what we do as a unit.

“We are competitive people, no one in the team’s ever really satisfied. I think that all puts us in good stead to keep progressing as a club and a team.”

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About Hamish Spence 52 Articles
Hamish writes about Aussie Rules, cricket, basketball and all things Tasmanian sport for The Inner Sanctum. His experience includes working for organisations like 10 News First, AFL Tasmania, The Mercury, the TSL, the Hobart Hurricanes and Draft Central. He recently finished a media degree at The University of Tasmania.

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