Brisbane Lions star forward Jess Wuetschner only took up football at 16 and now she’s one of the AFLW’s biggest names.
The Tasmanian talks about her journey to the AFL Women’s competition.
Jack Hudson: You grew up in Tassie but didn’t play footy until you were 16 – how did you take it up?
Jess Wuetschner: I used to go and watch my dad play and kick the footy around when I was younger, there was no women’s football around anywhere for young girls to play in Tassie.
Until 2008, there was no women’s side then I started the year after when a friend told me about it.
JH: How frustrating was it growing up with no sides going around?
JW: I didn’t really know any different to be honest.
It was just the way that it was, I had hockey which I played and I loved, but once I found football as a game to play rather than just a kick with friends, there was no turning back.
JH: Tell us about your time with East Fremantle.
JW: I wanted to play in a better competition at the time and I moved across to Perth.
I didn’t have a club lined up or anything, but when I arrived there I got in contact with the club and they said why don’t you come down and have a crack with us.
I spent three season there and it was a lot of fun, a lot different to Tassie footy for sure.
JH: Then the AFLW was born, so how excited were you to see you may be able to play at that level?
JW: I didn’t think it was going to happen, and I think everyone was saying it was going to occur in 2020, and if it happened this year it wouldn’t have been ideal.
I was obviously really excited about the announcement, and I hadn’t had the best year in football myself, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to get an opportunity to play.
It was really enticing to get better and play better to get on an AFLW list.
JH: The 2016 AFLW Draft, what do you remember about it?
JW: Probably a months prior I had a call with Craig Starcevich, saying if I was open to a move to Queensland.
I said I live in Perth, but I’m not staying here so that’s an option.
I went up for a trial day up there, I had an issue with my foot so I couldn’t really do anything, which was a disappointment, but he saw enough in me in the exhibition game for the Bulldogs and called out my name.
JH: You debuted in round one the next year, how did it feel to be a part of that?
JW: It was amazing.
It was a thrill and such an incredible feeling.
I think there was about 5000 people there that day and it felt like 50,000.
The energy that everyone had was just amazing.
JH: Later that year you were a part of the first ever AFLW Grand Final, how did that feel?
JW: I just remember the whole week leading up to it, we didn’t know where we were going to be playing it.
I guess it was just trying to focus on footy and training but there was that in the background of not knowing.
It was so new to that semi-professional lifestyle, we were trying to sort out our family and friends as well and focus on footy.
The lead up was crazy but the day was just amazing, just 25,000 people into Metricon Stadium.
It was one of the best days I’ve ever had…minus the loss, of course.
JH: The next year you took your goalkicking to another level with 13, what do you remember about that year?
JW: I remember I got myself a lot fitter and stronger in the off-season
That allowed me to play better footy, but as a club I think we took our game to another level as well, even if it only came down to the last round for us to get into the grand final.
I thought as a whole the competition was a lot stronger and so were we.
JH: Another grand final, this time against the Bulldogs. What did you do differently if anything?
JW: I couldn’t tell you if we did anything really differently.
It was a different state which had the travel and the overnight stay where as beforehand we were at home, but, I don’t know if we necessarily learned from the year before.
I think we had opportunities we could’ve taken early in the game to put us in a better position.
JH: All-Australian selection that year, what did that mean to you?
JW: Apart from the best and fairest, it’s one of the highest honours you can get to say you’re in the best company in that spot that you play.
Getting appreciated for that was pretty amazing.
I have my trophies right here in front of me in my bedroom.
JH: At the end of the year the expansion clubs joined the AFLW, so how hard did they come after you?
JW: North Melbourne did, and it was probably a little bit too much at the time, and they were quite respectful of that as well.
As soon as I told them I was happy at Brisbane and that’s where I wanted to stay, that was sort of the end of that.
It wasn’t too overwhelming, I was always going to stay at Brisbane.
JH: At the beginning of this year you had one of the most scariest experiences, being struck by lightning, what happened?
JW: I was working my normal job at 2.30am on a Saturday night.
It was a big storm and we were working outside while we probably shouldn’t have been, and I was holding a pole and it got hit.
It was a very strange feeling and I was in shock after that, so I don’t remember too much.
JH: 2020’s Brisbane side had been knocked out of the finals before the season was cut off, how do you think the group is developing?
JW: I think that we came together really well through to the pre-season and the year this year.
I can’t imagine our list changing all that much come next season as well, we have a really good bunch of girls on and off the field.
It was probably one of the more enjoyable pre-seasons and seasons to be a part of, minus my little hiccup personally, but the group absolutely love each other and can’t wait to go a bit better in 2021.
JH: Did you agree with the decision to call of the season, rather than postpone it?
JW: I think yes.
I think they had to make that call, it’s a very strange time and I don’t think the girls could’ve been put on hold to finish off the season for a couple of months after that.
JH: How are you preparing for next year?
JW: We’re lucky up here, we’re able to play club football and we have our first round this weekend.
At the moment I’m just trying to get more football in and developing my game.
We’ve been really lucky at Brisbane to still have guidance and access to our coaches and stuff through this pandemic which has been really valuable for us to get ready for next year.
JH: Are you excited to get back out there this weekend?
JW: I am, I am, yes.
There’s no place I’d rather be than on a football field.
Obviously it’s hard for the rest of the country, especially for Victoria right now, I feel for them, and we need to appreciate we can play up here.
I send all my best wishes down in Victoria.