Sally Riley - My Redan Story
What age did you start playing netball and did you play any other sports growing up?
I started playing netball for Brown Hill when I was eight. I also played tennis in the summer to fill in time before netball started again.
What brought you to Redan and what were your initial impressions of the club?
I was 16 and still playing at Brown Hill but a few of us (Esse Cahir, Rhiarn Lockett, Ash Vagg, Tiarni Beasley) were looking to find a footy/netball club for the upcoming season. I went to Redan's preseason and another club to see which club I liked better and Redan was easily the winner.
My first impressions of the club were fantastic. Romsey (Kirsty O’Rourke) was the head coach at the time and I loved that I was only a junior but got to train and interact with the seniors.
Your family certainly has a strong connection with the club?
When I started as an under 18s player in 2007 it was only me at the club. My sister Erin then joined the year after and Hayden come across from Mt Clear Footy club when he was too old for their junior teams.
Mum never missed a game of ours when we played at Redan and to this day she still cooks a casserole for the den teas and takes the weekly action shots even though us three kids have moved away from Ballarat.
Who were some of the players and coaches who had the biggest impact on your career?
Coaches – Romsey, Kate McMahon and Sal McLean
Players – Phoebe Knox
What was it like playing under Kate McMahon and what would you say is her greatest strength as a coach?
Kate is like no other coach I have played under. She has belief in the players before they have the belief in themselves, she has a huge amount of passion for the game and she is brutally honest which was what we needed to win the flag in 2011. I’ll never forget when she told my sister to ‘have a teaspoon of concrete and harden up!’
Being part of Redan’s first ever A Grade Netball title must have been a great thrill?
It was AMAZING!! We had never beaten Lakers that year, they were going for five
premierships in a row and we lost to them in the first final two weeks earlier by 20 goals.
On the day we just knew we had nothing to lose so gave it our all and ended up winning by five. To top it off the Senior boys won that day as well so that was certainly a week of celebrations that will be hard to beat.
How much of a difference did it make having the new court built at the City Oval after all those years at Ballarat College?
A huge difference! The quality of the court at College wasn’t ideal and we were separated from the football so I think about 5 people would come and watch us and no one really cared about the netball ‘over the road’.
The move to City Oval meant the club become more inclusive and family friendly.
Apart from the 2011 title, what were some of your other best memories of your
time at Redan?
Under 18 premiership when we were underdogs against East Point in 2008.
Den Functions – especially after grand final day whether you were in a grand final
Mad Monday when the netballers and footballers wait until the last team loses
and join for the end of season celebration – Not many clubs do it all together
Tell us about what you are up to these days and your switch to another code?
I am a PE Teacher in the Northern Territory. I lived and taught in Katherine for two years and now I am in Darwin for my second year. Living up here the netball season runs March to September and the football season runs October to March so I can play Football as well as netball.
What are the biggest difference (weather aside) living in the Northern Territory?
-There are no ‘footy/netball’ clubs, they are completely separate. Also the quality of the opposition is not as high in all grades.
-You can climb the ladder a lot higher and quicker up here.
-It is a very transient place – people are constantly arriving and leaving.
-Facilities and programs are well behind the other states.
-Sweat! You just learn to deal with it every single day!
-The fashion – singlet, shorts and thongs! I only own one jumper and one pair of
Which netball skills have helped you most with your football?
The ability to read the play, use space to advantage and hand eye coordination.
You recently represented the Northern Territory in Womens Football, what was
that experience like?
I loved it! We played down in Melbourne which made it even better to play in from of
family and friends who had never seen me play before – although they did make me
extremely nervous. It was good to play with the best in the territory and get a taste of
what the Victorian and Tasmanian talent was like as well.
The establishment of a Women’s AFL competition is in full swing, do you have any aspirations to reach that level?
It’s fantastic that this is actually happening as when I did Auskick I was the only girl and women’s AFL was not on the horizon. I would love to play at the highest level, but for now I’ll just keep working with the NT State Academy and playing local footy and netball and see what happens.
I would need to get A LOT better if I was to make it! If only I was ten years younger with all the opportunities ahead.
Your ultimate sporting fantasy - a goal to win a World Championship Final for the Diamonds or to kick a goal after the siren to win the Inaugural Women’s AFL Grand Final?
Ten years ago when Sharelle McMahon was playing it would have been the netball option but these days, definitely the AFL goal after the siren (preferably for Essendon!)
What piece of advice would you have for all the juniors starting their netball and football careers at Redan?
It’s a fantastic club with supportive coaches and people so make the most of it while you are there. Ask questions, attend all the functions and have fun with lifelong mates!
Tell us about getting drafted and being part of the inaugural Women’s AFL competition. Was it what you had envisaged?
Draft day was a day I will never forget. I worked the morning and then left early to watch the live stream from my lounge room by myself as my housemates were working. I’ve never been so nervous in my life. When my name got called out I was overcome by emotion – I’m not one for crying but I actually bawled! From then it was all a whirl wind and the hard work really began.
To be involved in the first season is something that I will treasure forever. I believe the competition exceeded everyone’s expectations and it certainly exceeded mine. I always knew it would work but the public and media response has been a lot bigger than I ever envisaged. The best thing is it will only get bigger and better.
What was your role in the side and what are some of the biggest strides you made through being part of an AFL environment?
I was selected as a midfield/forward. I played various roles during the season either in the forward line or on the ball. I was also named Vice-Captain so had a leadership role and got to work closely with Ange Foley, Erin Phillips and Chelsea Randall when we met weekly after games and vis sykpe.
Who were some of your toughest opponents?
Impressively the competition was very even. All teams won at least one game and realistically not much separated the top teams. Playing the majority of the season in the midfield every opponent I played on was tough and only playing teams once meant you could not take any opposition lightly.
Tell us about the strong Ballarat contingent in the various sides.
Ballarat had quite a few players in the league and 3 of those players played in the Grand Final after relocating interstate from Ballarat. Kaitlyn Ashmore and Nicole Hildebrand attended Mt Clear College with me and played for Brisbane. Laura Bailey went to school at Ballarat High and she played for the Western Bulldogs. There were also other girls and coaches who had connections to Ballarat at some stage. No doubt Ballarat will have even more connections after this coming draft in October
Describe Erin Phillips as a player and leader, someone who has also played Women’s NBA and took out all the major accolades in season one.
I’m stating the obvious here but knowing her personally, Flipa is an absolute jet!! She is an incredible athlete but an even better person. She sets the bar high and her professionalism in everything she does is second to none. Being the Vice-captain this year I was fortunate enough to have weekly meetings with the leadership team to work together to set up and maintain our club culture and standards.
Erin is a fantastic leader and mentor to all of the players and I have learnt a lot from her. I honestly don’t think anyone will ever be able to achieve what she has done – a Premiership plus winning every single award possible after not playing a game of football for 15 years, all while looking after twins and living in America outside of the AFLW season.
Adelaide took out the Grand Final by six points over Brisbane at Metricon Stadium to claim the first title of the new competition. Tell us about the match itself and the celebrations thereafter?
What a day! Due to our team being split in two states we arrived in the Gold Coast two nights before game day (normally only one). This gave us time to relax together and really soak up the occasion. Game day was our normal weekly routine until we were all standing for the national anthem. That was when it really hit me that we were playing in the grand final and I just stared at the Premiership cup sitting on the stand in front of us knowing that we knew exactly what we had to do to get our hands on it after the game.
The actual game is all a blur. It went really quickly, all I remember was the relief when the siren went after a tense last few minutes. The presentations were held on the ground like the Men’s Grand Final and we did our lap of honour when I got to see friends and family in the crowd. I was lucky enough to have friends and family travel up from Victoria so it was great to have them there to celebrate and share the moment with.
We had a small function at our Motel and then we were on a bus at 6am the next day to get to Brisbane to fly to Adelaide to present the Premiership cup to the home crowd at the Men’s round 1 game at Adelaide Oval. Doing the lap on honour in front of over 45,000 people was a pinch yourself moment as it still hadn’t sunk in what we had achieved. To top of the weekend, us NT players had to fly to Darwin later that afternoon so our ‘Mad Monday’ was spent sleeping in! A little bit different to the Redan Mad Mondays at the Western Hotel!!
How many years do you see yourself playing in the competition and how long before all 18 of the existing AFL clubs have a women’s team?
I am one of the older ones in the team so hopefully I can play for a few more years but it all depends on the club and if they see me in their future plans to re-sign me. I know that I have more to give and after a few weeks compulsory break with time to reflect, I mentally and physically have that drive to go again so if they offer me another contract I sure won’t be declining it! (since originally writing this I have re- signed with the club for 2018).
I don’t think we will see 18 teams for a long time yet as the competition must grow at the rate depth of talent increases. The success of Season 1 could well mean more teams in 2019 which I would be fully supporting – 7 rounds is not enough after training for 10 months of the year, so the more the merrier I say.