Sarah Perkins – Part Two: From Un-drafted to All Australian

Perkins rose to cult hero status throughout the 2017 AFL season, Photo: afc.com.au

One of the biggest names in the AFLW across its first four seasons, Sarah Perkins journey to the top tier is one filled with incredible highs and crushing lows. 

Speaking with The Inner Sanctum, Perkins relives her extraordinary 2017 season with the Adelaide Crows in part two of this three part series.

Departing the inaugural AFLW draft on October 12, 2016, the football career of talented VFLW full forward Sarah Perkins sat at a delicate crossroads. 

Having missed out on being selected despite her invitation to sit in and watch the historic event, Perkins became resigned to the fact that she would be heading back to the Eastern Devils in season 2017 to again prove her worth to recruiters. 

Then, just days later, an unlikely suitor from across the western border came knocking in the form of Bec Goddard and the Adelaide Crows. 

Speaking with The Inner Sanctum, Perkins details her early dealings with the club and how she went from being undrafted to an All Australian star.

“I had nothing to do with [the Crows] pre the draft,” Perkins told The Inner Sanctum

“Getting in contact with them was a huge surprise, but I guess I am pretty lucky that I have met some pretty amazing people along the way who put in a good a word for me, with my brother and coach sending some footage across to some interstate clubs. 

“I picked up the phone and had a conversation with Bec Goddard and Phil Harper and when they flew me over to see the club I knew I had to say yes there and then.

“It turned out to be a pretty amazing decision and definitely the right one for me at the time.” 

Just four days after the disappointment of the draft, Perkins would sign with the Adelaide Crows as a free agent and the process of shifting her life to the city of churches, a place she knew nobody, began.

“I guess like many women who picked up and moved their lives for six months I just wanted to be apart of the first season,” she said. 

“I made the decision that I would do whatever it took to play in it and for me that was picking up my life and moving to Adelaide, 

“I just went there to enjoy the experience and to play one game was the first thing on my list, but even if I hadn’t of played any I would have been super grateful to be a part of the first season with the Crows.” 

Arriving at the Crows’ West Lakes facility to begin her first AFLW preseason, Perkins said she was shocked by the quality of the Adelaide amenities.

“Wow,” She said. 

“I’d never really seen the inside of an AFL facility before and you kind of look around the room and some of the girls who had played in exhibition games before like Chelsea Randall, Kellie Gibson and Courtney Cramey.

“You just think to yourself wow, I am here with the best players Adelaide has to offer you get that feeling of being so incredibly lucky to be part of such a welcoming and fun group.” 

Over the following three months she would throw herself into training and building her fitness and skills, and when round one was firmly in sight, a solid performance in a warm up match against Fremantle would be enough for coach Bec Goddard to pull the trigger on the talented full forward.

Perkins describes the emotions of that momentous day at Thebarton Oval and just how special it was to be part of Adelaide’s first ever AFLW match. 

“I remember waking up really nervous,” Perkins said. 

“You read all the media and see that Collingwood and Carlton have just played in front of a sell out crowd the night before and they’ve had to lock the doors and you think that people are actually going to come watch today. 

“Warming up before the game it’s weird, you have mates on the other team you want to go and say hello to them and you have to just smile at them and look at them and think wow we’re actually here.

“Then the game plays out, the siren goes and we’ve won and it’s really over in what feels like five minutes.

“It’s not something I’ve sat back and thought about that much but it was a great day to be apart of.” 

Playing her role to perfection inside the Crows forward 50, Perkins was superb with her electric presence and elite skills immediately seeing her become a box office attraction and claim the nickname “Tex” due to her comparison with men’s captain and Adelaide icon Taylor Walker. 

The following weeks would see the young key forward continue to grow in stature as she ended up kicking 11 goals in the seven game season to claim second spot in the league’s goal kicking award. 

Perkins attributed her individual success to the strength of the Adelaide team.

“I think I was just really lucky to be on the end of some of my teammates great work and being in the right spot at the right time,” She said. 

“I still went into every game nervous and just taking it all in about how lucky I am to just be here

“The confidence isn’t something I thought about too much and I don’t think I have ever been confident in a game of footy in my entire life. I’m just really lucky I had some amazing people around me that kept taking my mind off footy and to just focus on my role.” 

The season would culminate with a selection in the All Australian team, an achievement made all the more impressive by her incredible journey to the AFLW. 

“It was just surreal, that whole season was surreal for me,” Perkins admitted. 

“The rollercoaster from draft day to being named in the All Australian team were just things I never really thought about.

“You watch footy your whole life and see all these awards and All Australians so to have that title next to your name is something I’ll cherish forever.”

With Perkins performing well up forward, the Crows would put together a superb home and away campaign with a big win in the final round against Collingwood at the Holden Centre punching their ticket to the AFLW’s maiden grand final against Brisbane at Metricon Stadium. 

A match that will go down in the storied history of Australian football, she describes what was a truly special day for her and the club. 

“It’s a tough one [to describe],” Perkins said. 

“It is an emotional surreal day, and you think back to that time of playing junior footy and coming through the ranks and just getting the opportunity to be there was just amazing.

“Then the game happens.

“Erin Phillips puts on a show, Chelsea Randall puts on a show and I’m battling Leah Kaslar for the second time, a girl who I’d never played on prior to that season.

Perkins following the 2017 Grand Final win against Brisbane, Photo: afc.com.au

“The siren goes and we end up winning by six points, it’s hard to put into words exactly how the day panned out.

“I think it is just a big emotional roller coaster of such a short season and you’ve spent time with a team of girls who are from all over Australia, to come out as winners at the end of the day was something really special.” 

Just six months on from being un-drafted, Perkins was sitting on top of the world as an AFLW premiership player and All Australian. 

This however would not be how the story ends.

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