Parker to make mark on U18 Women’s Champs
Self-proclaimed ‘farm girl’, Alyce Parker will line up for the NSW/ACT Youth Girls side competing in the NAB AFL Women’s U18 Championships this weekend.
Playing her first match of the series in Sydney, Parker will be a long way from her home in the Southern New South Wales’ small country town of Holbrook, about an hour’s drive south of Wagga Wagga.
Growing up on a farm, Parker loves to be involved. Whether it’s steering tractors, working with the animals, or helping out her dad, the Thurgoona Bulldog keeps herself in the thick of what is a great passion.
“I spend a lot of time on the farm. I love being there every chance I get,” says Parker.
Parker’s love of being at the centre of the action, also carries into her footy. Selected in the All Australian Youth Girls squad following last year’s Division Two Youth Girls Championship win for NSW/ACT, Parker was named in the midfield alongside the best players for her age group.
“Coming from netball, I was a ‘Centre’, so I just automatically went straight into the midfield.”
Parker has had an active start to her young sporting career, playing a plethora of sports in her journey towards AFL.
Involved in sports such as swimming, basketball, netball, tennis, and cricket – possibly more but she can’t remember them all – Parker says the love of sport is in her blood and it seems the natural place to be.
“I’ve been kicking the football with Dad since before I can even remember – we are a farming family who loves their football.”
Though she had been playing the old Australian pastime of kick-to-kick in the backyard for years, Parker hadn’t had a proper game until she was approached by her P.E. teacher, and encouraged to ‘give it a shot’.
“I had watched it all my life, but had never played a game,” says the Richmond supporter.
“There were no girl teams at all then, but when I had my first game, I kicked 4 goals.”
The rest we could say is history. Since her first game of AFL, Parker has been involved with her high school team (2016 State Champions), her local Thurgoona Bulldogs, the GWS GIANTS Female Academy, the NSW/ACT Youth Girls state side, and has taken All Australian honours.
Amongst all of her AFL accomplishments, Alyce was also invited to take part in the NAB AFL Women’s National Academy program, which took place in Canberra and Melbourne this year.
Thirty-three of Australia’s best young female footballing talents were invited to be coached and mentored by AFL Women’s stars such as Western Bulldogs’ Katie Brennan and Aasta O’Connor, as well as former Brisbane Lions Premiership player and NAB AFL Academy National Head Coach, Luke Power.
“[The Academy camps] were incredible experiences. We got access to physios and doctors, and got a lot of education on food and nutrition, then on things like social media, everything!”
“The access we got as well to the AFL clubs and players was amazing. I learnt so much.”
All in preparation for the challenge ahead where the NSW/ACT Youth Girls team will play a series of matches, starting in Blacktown tomorrow night against state rivals, Queensland.
In a new format to previous years where the competition took place over one week in Melbourne, the NAB AFL Women’s U18 Championships will reach various corners of the nation.
Last week, South Australia were impressive on their home turf, winning out against both Tasmania and the Northern Territory to open Round 1.
The NSW/ACT squad will be hoping for a similar result in their own backyard, also taking on Western Australia on Saturday. The squad will then travel to the Gold Coast in July for Round 2.
“It will be very different from last year. This year we get to move around a bit, which adds to the excitement.
“It will be tough, but we get a six-week break, and then we’re off to the Gold Coast.”
Although just 16-years-old, Parker is already racking up the kilometres travelled, with the NSW/ACT Talent Pathway aiming to offer the most effective experience possible for their young up-and-comers.
Being able to adapt to the conditions required of an elite athlete including the travel, is all a part of preparing the AFL stars of the future.
“[The NSW/ACT Talent Pathway] has been an incredible part of my journey.
“Being in rural New South Wales, people would think there aren’t many opportunities – to be honest the travel can be a problem for some – but as far as opportunities go, I am very lucky.”
You can see Alyce Parker and her NSW/ACT Youth Girls teammates play Queensland at Blacktown International Sports on Friday, 19 May 2017 with kick-off at 6.30pm. If you can’t make it to see the action live, check out the AFL Women’s YouTube channel for live streaming.