An AFLW Premiership was a dream come true for Jess Wuetschner, but the Tasmanian also secured a historic first for her home state.
Last month’s Grand Final victory was the result of a long journey for the inaugural Brisbane Lion, which started with her playing for Clarence in Hobart.
Wuetschner became the first Tasmanian AFLW Premiership player after Brisbane’s win over Adelaide, which she said was “definitely” something she took a lot of pride in.
“It’s something I didn’t really think about it or knew until a reporter mentioned it to me pretty much straight after the game. I was like, ‘aw, that’s pretty amazing. That’s something that I can look back on and maybe tell my kids or my kid’s kids one day, that I was the first-ever Tasmanian female footballer to win a Premiership in the AFLW. It’s pretty cool,” Wuetschner told The Inner Sanctum.
Wuetschner has come a long way from her days playing for Clarence as a 16-year-old.
While she later moved to Western Australia to play at a higher level with East Fremantle, her formative years in Tasmania were crucial in shaping her career.
“Who would have thought from the days playing down at Clarence, where we had three teams in the entire state, to where we are now, it’s pretty amazing,” Wuetschner said.
“The first year I ever played with Clarence we were in men’s uniforms, way too big, way too baggy, playing with women anywhere from my age of around 16 or 17 up to 50 years old.
“Going through those first few years in the league down there as it grew and got bigger, I think the pathway through there became a lot more competitive. Not to the standard I eventually wanted to go to, that’s why I went to WA, but the standard grew there and you drive off that competition and love for the game. My coaching through there with Andy Smith and my Dad as well were pivotal to where I am now and the success that I’ve had.”
But the pathways in Tasmania have improved over the last few years.
There is a full-time Tasmania Devils program in the NAB League and a partnership with North Melbourne’s VFLW side, which sees select players head over to Victoria and play for the Kangaroos.
While these developments have been offset by the disbandment of the TSLW (Tasmania’s women’s state league competition), Wuetschner hopes that there will be more Tasmanians in the AFLW in the future.
“It’s pretty cool to see a good handful of Tasmanian players playing at the highest level. With the pathways going through in the juniors down in Tassie now, it’s really awesome to see. It’s a pity about what happened with the State League, it’s going to be hard for any mature-age players to be drafted out of Tassie playing in a regional league.
“The good news is there’s still that pathway for the young players coming through. Hopefully, we can say there’s a Tasmanian on every list in the next couple of years, which would be amazing.”
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Wuetschner acknowledged that any mature-age player looking to play at the higher level would now have to move interstate as she did, but the pathway for the next generation is bright.
“They’re (mature-age players) really only going to have one option, which is to move interstate like I did when there wasn’t a pathway at all. It’s a huge jump to take to move interstate, pick up your life to go chase a dream. Some people thrive on it and for other people, it will probably be one of the hardest things that they’ve had to do.
“It is disappointing to see what’s happened with female footy down in Hobart and through the whole state, but at least the juniors have something to aim for. Which, in my opinion, is the most important thing because they’re the ones coming through now that are going to be the future.”
Reflecting on her incredible journey and career to date, Wuetschner said, “it’s obviously an amazing thing to look back on.”
“I’m really blessed because I’ve had support from my family ever since I decided to move to WA. Anytime I’ve had to take time off work or struggled financially, I’ve had that backing there from my family. They’ve been there for me and gotten me through the hard times, and I’ve also contributed to that obviously as well.
“To be a Premiership player through everything, especially the last 18 months, is pretty amazing. So I’m very very grateful.”
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