A tough call paves the way for Fowler’s big future
Georgie Fowler is a gun athlete, just don’t ask her to tell you.
“I played soccer since I was five but that got a bit boring because there’s not enough contact, you just pass the ball,” she said about her sporting history. “I also played hockey, basketball, softball and touch, but I wasn’t very good at them.”
The 17-year-old was picked by the GIANTS at number 59 in July’s 2021 NAB AFLW Draft. She’s only played four seasons of AFL: two of them in juniors, two of them interrupted by COVID.
Despite this, in a challenging year for everyone, especially athletes and Year 12 students, Fowler has earned the right to call herself an elite sportsperson.
“It was a bit of a relief to be drafted,” said Fowler. “But I’m still in shock, to be honest. I would say things to my friends like, ‘when I get drafted, I’ll get a mullet,’ and other funny things, but I didn’t think it would actually happen.”
Fowler took a risk on footy. At the start of 2021, she was offered a position in rugby’s national emerging youth squad. It meant a pathway to play junior world championships, the Oceania conference and, all going well, selection in Australia’s rugby 7s squad for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Before signing up to the squad, she told Ash Moeller, her East Coast Eagles coach, and others close to her that she would quit AFL to focus on rugby. They were respectful of her decision but reinforced that she is also a footy talent and a genuine draft hopeful.
“I think I got caught up with the short-term rewards rugby was offering,” Fowler said, who admits the decision to choose AFL over rugby caused her a lot of anxiety. “At the end of the day, footy actually makes me happy. I enjoy playing it more.”
Most AFLW players have had exposure to playing other sports at high levels for many years. Fowler is unique because she’s come into the sporting spotlight from a relatively late age.
Keeping in mind she is now in Year 12, she only started rugby for her school, Barker College, in Year 10. She was immediately selected in state programs and played for Sydney Uni, before being shown her national talent pathway.
Football has been slightly more constant for Fowler, although she’s not had the Academy pathways of many of her peers. Her first two years playing footy were for the U16s St Ives JACF side, where she thought she’d have a go after watching her younger brother’s Auskick sessions.
She had a year off football when she spent Year 9 boarding at Geelong Grammar’s famous Timbertop program. “I couldn’t play footy, which was annoying, but I did a lot of running,” she said of the experience. A lot of running is right, with the school year culminating in the gruelling 33-kilometre Timbertop Marathon, which all Year 9 students much complete.
After that, it was Barker College from Year 10, where her coach, Sarah Ford (who is also East Coast Eagles’ captain), asked her down to East Coast Eagles.
The rest is history, but it must be noted that Fowler joins the GIANTS’ list with only four seasons of footy under her belt. She has athletic talent and will develop quickly in the elite environment.
Fowler is 170 centimetres tall and is known for her strength and power. “I’m pretty powerful, I don’t really get taken to ground, which is a good attribute. I’m a good kick most of the time and I like to think I’m pretty good at reading the play,” she says.
With her height, strength, skills and power you could imagine her standing alongside Alyce Parker in centre bounces for the GIANTS one day. For now, Fowler likes playing up forward and getting on the end of her mates’ good work, hitting the scoreboard for her team.
Exciting times ahead
When she looks back, Fowler will be proud of how she’s managed a turbulent period of her life. She’s worked through a COVID-riddled HSC, attracted attention from elite scouts in two of the biggest sporting codes in the country and made a decision that will benefit her future.
“I don’t really know what I want to do next year when I’ve finished school,” said Fowler. “I think AFLW is a good opportunity to play footy for a year before I work out what I want to do.”
She’s not taking her berth in the GIANTS’ squad like a gap year, though. Fowler is driven to have a long career playing elite footy, “The big goal is to play most games if not all of them this season, but I’m still 17 so, hopefully, will get a good 10 years out of the GIANTS.”
Georgie Fowler is grateful for the chance to be an elite player, and is looking forward to her AFLW journey: “Not everyone gets to experience after the game in the rooms, chanting the song in the circle or training in the off season. I’m pretty excited about it.”
She summarises what the GIANTS must be thinking about her footy future. It will take hard work and determination, but Fowler is a talent who has all the attributes to be a star of the game:
“As modest as you can put it, if I have been able to get this point without that, what will I be able to do with all that support. How far can I take my game?
“I have at least 10 years to work on my skills and to learn about the game. Where is that going to take me? I’m looking forward to getting in with the coaches and with the girls and make the most of it.”
What a journey this Digital Road Trip has been. Just a couple more stops in Sydney until we’ll park the caravan and put our feet up for a while.