27/02/2024

GWS Giants forward Zarlie Goldsworthy. (Picture: AFLW; Design: Will Cuckson)

After being selected with GWS’ first pick in the 2022 draft, Zarlie Goldsworthy has found a home at the Giants. Playing in the forward line, she has found herself under the tutelage of some of the best leaders in the competition.

Speaking exclusively to The Inner Sanctum, Goldsworthy explains the culture at the Giants and how the older and more experienced players have helped her grow in leaps and bounds this season.

“I think that it just shows how deep the club is and how connected we all are, because I wouldn’t be able to narrow it down to one [player that’s looked after me],” Goldsworthy told The Inner Sanctum.

“I think that all the players, especially the older girls… I hate singling out the players, but people like Cora [Staunton], Alyce Parker, [Alicia] Eva, Nic Barr.

“I think that they’ve realised that they are kind of going to be the older girls and role models for us younger ones, so they’ve really stepped into their roles as leaders and just kind of shown us the way.”

Having been the captain of the Giants since the 2020 season, Eva has been a pillar of strength for the side through some tough times in the last few seasons.

Asking Goldsworthy what Eva meant to the group, it’s obvious that she takes the responsibility of the group very seriously.

“I think she’s hugely motivational just for us girls… win or loss, she always has something to say, and it’s never a bad thing but it’s a lesson to learn,” Goldsworthy explained.

“She really just paves the way off the field with what to do, whether it’s small things like recovery or just valuing what you are putting into your body, just stuff like that. Those little things that probably the younger players don’t value as much whereas she shows the importance of it.”

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The Giants are a very young group up forward with Goldworthy, Jess Doyle, Meghan Gaffney all under the age of 20, with Doyle the only one of that group to have played AFLW games last season. They are also joined by the 21-year-old Georgie Garnett, who’s only just made the move into the forward line.

Goldsworthy describes the role that veteran forwards Cora Staunton and Nicola Barr have had in the development of the young brigade.

“We are a very young forward line, so there are a lot of young girls like me around my age, 17-18 [years-old]. They’ve probably just taught us about being competitive and backing ourselves in,” she said.

“They teach us about having the confidence to go to goal, and I reckon they are highly educational in that sense. Then [also] in the sense of being composed in front of goal, which is something I definitely want to work on as well as other players.

“They always have something to say and it’s always something we want to take on board.”

The experience will be all the more special when the Giants take the field in Round 10 to celebrate the 50 game milestone of the beloved Irish woman Staunton.

Taking up the head coaching role in the off-season, Cam Bernasconi has had a tough start to life in the job with injuries to key players seeing the group winning three games out of the nine played.

Results aside, Goldsworthy insists that he is the right man for the job, with the players needing time to adapt to the game-plan and more experience in the league.

She also speaks about the fact that Bernasconi is also a very personable coach, who will be the right person to take the squad forward.

“Cam is great, I think the gameplan that he has come in with has been great,” Goldsworthy said. “

Although we haven’t executed it and we are probably not fundamentally there yet, I think we have shown glimpses of it and it’s really exciting to see where we can go in the future with it.

“He’s a very caring person, if I ever need something I’m sure he would be the first person who would offer his time, just like now with exams on I’m having to do alternate training sessions.

“Cam is always like I’ll come with you, I’ll do a one-on-one in the morning or just little things like that, that shows how much of a great guy he is.”

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Making her debut in the first ever AFLW match-up between the Sydney Swans and the Giants, Goldsworthy ticked a few items off her bucket list.

Considering the clash is usually a fierce one in the AFL and in the Suncorp Super Netball League (between the NSW Swifts and Giants Netball) it was interesting to see what the build-up of the AFLW game was like.

“It was awesome, I am very competitive and I love that atmosphere that the game brought and that rivalry that came as well,” Goldsworthy explained.

“I know that the Giants definitely value that as well, because we had a couple of private messages from men’s players or video messages in the group chat about their experiences with Sydney.”

The dynamic between the teams was different than the AFL, which made the Giants more hungry for the win. The Swans were the new team coming into the established league, and the ‘big sisters’ wanted to flex their muscle and start the ledger with a win.

“[We] even had motivational videos with the netballers showing the depth that this rivalry has between the clubs, and now that we have the chance to make our stamp on it and in our way bully the Swans,” Goldsworthy said.

“They are coming into the competition, and we’re in the position where we can be the bully rather than the bullied like in the past. So I think coming into that round, it was very exciting to be a part of that. [For it] to be first one was a very cool debut.”

With the competition running two seasons in one year, it has meant that those drafted are still completing school while training with AFLW clubs.

Being drafted mid-year and having exams running in November, Goldsworthy explains that playing football has been a welcomed outlet.

“It’s definitely swayed my concentration towards school, I would say I definitely haven’t quite probably valued my education as much since I’ve come into football,” she said.

“But then also in the last couple of weeks with exams coming along it’s definitely offered me an outlet just to get away from it and away from the study.”

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