The final part of our interview series with AFLW premiership player Jessica Sedunary, the veteran speaks of her injury troubles, missing out on a premiership, a new adventure with St Kilda and returning to where it all began.
Following the 2017 AFLW season Jessica Sedunary was on top of the world.
An integral part of the maiden premiers star studded lineup, her electric speed and uncompromising style of play had her primed to become one of the competition’s marquee players.
However, in a story suffered by many professional sportspeople, injuries would take their full toll on the 30 year old who only managed seven games over the next two AFLW seasons.
Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, Sedunary describes the physical and mental toll of her constant injury problems.
“That was a really difficult and challenging time,” Sedunary said.
“It was my first time having to sit on the sidelines and watch, which sometimes I think is hard when you have an injury because you can’t channel those emotions of not being out there into training as I was only allowed to run at 60 per cent.
“It [the Lisfranc injury] was really challenging in terms of its not a straight forward injury and not one that has a direct path to be being better, so it was one that would constantly get better and get worse which was something I really struggled with.”
2019 would be particularly frustrating for Sedunary with her foot problems constantly recurring as she found herself on the brink of a return.
This would culminate in her going down in the finals minutes of a SANFLW match for Central District, which was dubbed a fitness test as she pushed for selection in the Crows 2019 grand final side.
“I was initially pencilled in for [returning] in round three, so when that didn’t end up happening that was very disheartening,” she said.
“Then I eventually got back to full fitness and played in the SANFL, and unfortunately re-injured [my foot] right on the siren which was just like another kick in the guts.
“It was really difficult but I learnt heaps, it made me a better player and definitely a better teammate now being able to support others in that position.”
Curtailed by her foot injury, Sedunary would find herself in the stands as the Crows made history and claimed their second AFLW title in front of a record crowd at the Adelaide Oval.
She recounts her memories of the special day.
“Overall it was an awesome day as when you aren’t playing you really get to soak it in,” she said.
“I know if I was playing I wouldn’t have noticed [the record crowd] and when they opened up the extra top level of seating to let more people, so that was really exciting to be able to appreciate the magnitude of the day.
“Obviously a lot of my best mates play in the team, so I felt this immense feeling of pride and joy for not just my team but women’s sport in general having tackled those challenges [of acceptance] in the past especially when I was younger.
“The Crows were really good, I wanted to sit behind the goals for a quarter so I went I did that as I thought it really sucks being injured so I just want to enjoy the game like I was a spectator.
“The atmosphere was electric behind there, just listening to the positive comments from the crowd about my teammates was really exciting, that was just a really fun day.”
As for the feeling of missing out on that premiership medallion, Sedunary admits it was difficult but at the end of the day the overwhelming sense of pride for her teammates took over.
“It was difficult, when we won the premiership it sucks because you don’t get a medal or anything like that and when you don’t play in the game it is very hard to feel apart of it,” she said.
“But it still felt amazing and it was great to see my mates achieve something so incredible.”
Following that season, she found herself in need for a change and a new challenge entering the next phase of her football career.
Having never left the city of Adelaide, Sedunary jumped at the opportunity of starting fresh with expansion club St Kilda ahead of the 2020 season.
“The main motivation [behind that move St Kilda], was to challenge myself as both a player and a teammate,” she said.
“I had never left Adelaide before that, and I just thought I have learnt so many good things over my career with the Crows starting with that inaugural season I can seriously help the Saints get their journey started.
“I thought by going to a new club and being their from the start is such a good way of instilling those good habits, and I met with [St Kilda coach] Peta [Searle] and she sounded like she was on the same page with me about bringing those traits to the club.
“I just looked at it as a new challenge and chance to grow and get out of my comfort zone as well as an opportunity to advance my working life outside of football.”
Sedunary would quickly establish herself as a key player in the St Kilda lineup, with an injury free pre season seeing her primed for a bounce back campaign.
She looks back fondly on the beginning of her career as a Saint, with one early season match against her former teammates standing out.
“It was definitely a bit weird [coming up against the Crows],” she said.
“I played there for so long they basically became family, so I had a bit of extra nerves but also it does become a bit easier knowing your opponent so well.
“It was really fun playing in front of what was almost a home crowd for me [at Richmond Oval], I was looking forward to the game which always makes me play better and yeah everything about the day was just amazing.
“It was also really cool to show off to everybody back in Adelaide what we had created at the Saints and I remember Erin [Phillips] coming up to me and saying the girls were really good today and our skill level was amazing.
“Although I did manage to play well and it was a great match, I did break a rib that day as well which was not fun!”
Four matches into her career at the Saints, she had returned to that super consistent level of play that saw her become such a crucial member of Adelaide’s 2017 premiership.
However, unlike season one, 2020 would not yield that same happy ending as injury would once again rear its ugly head.
“It was super frustrating [to miss the back end of the 2020 season],” she said.
“I had played through breaking two ribs through the first month as I just wanted to play that badly after missing the season prior.
“It eventually deteriorated to a stage where I simply could not play anymore, and with it being a rib injury I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t lie down, struggled to breathe which made it super hard to train and try and get back in the side.
“So it was super frustrating being in that same situation as the year prior, but then as I was set to return COVID hit which kept me from coming back.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic thrusting the world into a state of uncertainty, Sedunary would face the tough dilemma of whether to return home to her family in Adelaide as her off field role at the Saints became obsolete.
Eventually coming to the conclusion that she could not stay in Melbourne, she describes how difficult it was departing the Saints and what the club had done for her in just one season.
“It was an amazing experience [playing for the Saints],” She said.
“I am actually really sad I didn’t get to leave and say goodbye which was tough due to COVID, so I can’t wait to get back there and say a proper goodbye to everyone.
“It was a really positive experience and out of all the year’s I have played, that was the season I grew the most as a person.
“I learnt so much off of Peta and my line coach Paddy [Hill] was amazing and he really got a lot out of me not just physically but mentally as well so it was a really awesome year full of growth both on and off the field.”
Leaving the Saints with a heavy heart, one silver lining that came from the situation was the opportunity to return to where it all began.
Sedunary explains the reasoning behind her return to West Lakes.
“It was a really tough decision but weighing it all up it was the right thing to do in terms of timing and everything,” she said.
“I had decided that eventually I wanted to move back to Adelaide as I definitely missed my family and friends over here, but the main decider was around my career in Melbourne because of COVID that role wasn’t going to be there for me when I got back.
“Ideally I would have loved to stay in Melbourne for another year and play out my contract and finish what I started, but sometimes you have to grab the opportunities when they come and it just felt right coming back to the Crows.”
Now one of the senior players at the Crows, she says she is really enjoying being back at the club and mentoring it’s exciting youth.
“I am loving [being back],” she said.
“I walked in and it felt like I’d never left, I love the girls there and just feels really like home, I’d describe it as coming back to your family home for a Sunday dinner it was just so warm and inviting.
“The girls have just been so lovely and to be able to be apart of the squad again and help in any way I can has just been so great.”