When it comes to stories of resilience and perseverance you will be hard pressed to find one more inspiring than that of Adelaide Crows forward Jessica Sedunary.
Coming to football at the age of 23, she would instantly fall in love with the camaraderie and competitiveness the game has to offer and go about forging a successful career at the highest level.
A journey now spanning four years across three stints with two clubs, Sedunary has experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows as an AFLW player and provides a unique perspective on the game.
Speaking with The Inner Sanctum, she details her interesting first encounter with Australian Rules football.
“Originally I came from a cycling background and was just playing casual netball with some mates and one of the [players in the team] played footy and she said her team was short on players and asked if I would fill in,” Sedunary told The Inner Sanctum.
“I went out and trained with them and wasn’t good enough to get a game, even though were short on numbers, and then the next week they asked me to come out to the game and sit on the bench as a spectator.
“Someone got injured pretty early on and as they were coming off the coaches said alright Jess you are on the ball and I remember running out and thinking I don’t know what on the ball means.
“I couldn’t kick the ball straight and couldn’t handball very well at the very start, but once I got involved in the games and was able to tackle and things that’s when I showed a bit more potential.”
Sedunary would quickly acquaint herself to the intricacies of the game and thrive in the no pressure and fun environment associated with football at the time.
“There wasn’t really a big career path in footy at the time, so I really just played it for fun,” she said.
“As a junior I played hockey and cycling at a really high level and it was always about progressing to next level, so this was the first time I’d played a sport purely for fun.
“Hanging out with the girls after the game, it was just so fun and something that kept myself on track from a fitness and social aspect.”
Playing for Morphettville Park in Adelaide’s premier amateur football competition, Sedunary would prove herself as one the stars of the league with her determination and ferocious style of play yielding her multiple best and fairest titles.
Like many female footballers around the country at the time she was eager to take her game to the next level, making the AFL’s premature announcement of a professional women’s competition in 2016 a defining moment in her sporting life.
“I remember they initially said they would bring it [the national competition] in for 2020 and thinking damn I will be pretty old by then,” She said.
“So when they brought it up to 2017 I was pretty pumped, I wasn’t quite sure where I was at or if I had what it took to make a team, but I definitely was going to put my hat in the ring and give it a good shot.”
Declaring for the league’s inaugural draft, the nerves were at an all time high in the Sedunary household as they had to wait 119 selections before the Adelaide Crows read out her name.
“I had my parents come over to my little one room apartment and we watched the draft on my laptop,” She said.
“The nerves were pretty high as each player came around and each spot got taken you got little more nervous and disheartened, and then my name came up like third to last or something.
“It [my name] stayed on the screen for the while and I’d keep looking at it and saying is this real, but the best part was just how excited my parents got, I’d been playing high level sport for such a long time and they put in a lot of money and hours to support me.
“When it got announced my dad just grabbed my shirt and shook me and said we’ve finally done it while my Mum just jumped straight up and started screaming, it was great to see the emotion come out of them as all the work they had put in had finally paid off.”
Arriving at the Crows in late 2016 there was a sense of nervous energy and excitement as the squad began its preparations for the inaugural AFLW season.
Kicking off their campaign with a comprehensive win over the Giants at Thebarton Oval, Sedunary describes what was a landmark day for football in South Australia.
“You could really capture how much of a special moment it was,” she said.
“I remember parking my car and walking over and I could see a line-up and I was instantly shocked because I’d never seen anything like that for any female event so the first thing I thought was do I have to line up as well?
“It was pretty emotional day as I just thought that all the work I had put in over the years had paid off and I was out there living the dream I wanted to live.”
Following that historic win the Crows would go from strength to strength throughout the 2017 season, with their incredible chemistry and cohesion on the field catapulting them into premiership contention.
She says a round two clash on the road against the Western Bulldogs was a pivotal moment in their campaign as the squad found its ruthless edge.
“I remember round two against the Bulldogs was very special,” she said.
“For me that was a big game as I had shaken off some of the nerves from round one and from a team perspective we’d had a few articles floating around about the fact that we didn’t have the quite skill level as some of the Victorian teams and didn’t have what it takes.
“Reading those articles really put a fire in our belly and it was our first game on the road against a fairly strong Western Bulldogs team, so to come away winning was very special and put us on the map as contenders.”
The Crows would drop just one game throughout the 2017 home and away season, with an epic final round victory against Collingwood at the Holden Centre booking their place into the competitions first Grand Final.
Coming up against a previously unbeaten Brisbane team at Metricon Stadium, Sedunary explains her lead up to the big day.
“It was a pretty big whirlwind,” she said.
“It was hard to keep up to date with everything that was happening, it didn’t really soak in for a long time and I had to keep pinching myself that we were actually there.
“We left Adelaide a couple of days earlier and the team was in a really good headspace and bonding well, because we all work as well life is pretty hectic and that first year was pretty full on trying to find that balance,
“So being able to go away a bit earlier everyone was just able to relax and not worry about work anything, it was just fantastic to bond and get to know each other even better.”
Going into the match in great shape both physically and mentally, the Crows would produce their best football of the season in what ended up being a Grand Final for the ages.
Sedunary shares her experiences of the day as she became a premiership player.
“The main bits I remember now were the final minutes, my calves were cramping and I was just thinking run, run, don’t stop running we have to win this,” she said.
“Obviously when the siren went that was a pretty special moment, my parents were there and it was great to see them celebrating with everybody else’s parents who had all sacrificed so much.
“It was also a moment I probably didn’t enjoy as much as I should’ve, back then I was pretty harsh on my performances and I wasn’t really happy with the way I played.
“In my head I was like far out have I done enough to get redrafted, when you are a young athlete you stress a lot and sometimes you don’t enjoy all the things like you should so I think there was a part of me that stressed a little through that game.
“Then five minutes after when you are celebrating with your team and things it is very special as your mind shifts to how big the accomplishment was.”
Less than 12 months into her AFLW career Sedunary had already climbed the mountain to premiership glory and solidified herself as a regular in the Adelaide line up.
Little did she know that the biggest battles of her sporting career where just around the corner.