Southern Sydney trio power into All Nations squad
The 2017 National Female Diversity Championships were run in Byron Bay last week with two teams from the New South Wales and ACT region taking part – Kickstart (Indigenous) and All Nations (Multicultural).
The All Nations team, involving players who were either born overseas or who have parents born overseas, saw three girls from AFL Sydney Junior’s Youth Girls Southern Power club, taking on the best diverse talent from across Australia.
Despite coming from various corners of the globe, they have now found themselves playing on the same team at both a local and national level.
Coming from an English background, Sarah Heptinstall says that growing up in Southern Sydney has afforded her experiences and opportunities she might not have received elsewhere, with one of the greatest being the chance to play AFL.
The Year 8 student from St Patrick’s College Sutherland, says that it was her older brother who first encouraged her to take up the sport,
“My older brother played, supported and introduced AFL to me at a young age, which made the sport a large part of my life,” said Heptinstall.
“He played and umpired the sport and suggested that I should start playing for the local Southern Power Youth Girls AFL team.”
Since joining the team three years ago, Hepinstall has not looked back.
“I have been able to learn new skills, make new friends and play a game that I enjoy.”
The 14-year-old has a fierce passion to continually develop in all aspects of the game. With the dream of one day playing for the AFL Women’s competition now firmly in her sights, the Female Diversity Championships were a crucial step.
The Championships are designed to provide a pathway for young girls from Multicultural and Indigenous backgrounds to reach the elite level of football. With the participation of these groups growing higher and higher, the players see no barriers in their following their passion.
Heptinstall’s Southern Power teammate, Ellen Soffe was also introduced to AFL through her brothers.
Both of Soffe’s parents were born in Dublin, Ireland and growing up, Soffe says that AFL was a major part of her life as she attended every single game her brothers played.
“Two of my friends were on a team and I was thinking of playing,” Soffe said.
“Then my brothers said that I wouldn’t be able to play because I was a girl [and] that drove me to start playing.”
Now, Soffe has already spent over half of her life playing AFL, joining the Miranda Bombers when she was seven and then the Southern Power once they developed a Youth Girls program.
When she is not practising her football skills, Soffe spends her time playing the saxophone, guitar, ukulele, and teaching herself the drums.
Unlike Heptinstall and Soffe, 14-year-old Annika Argerakis had never played AFL until this year.
Now she has just represented her state at the Female Diversity Championships where she competed against some of the most talented young players of Multicultural backgrounds.
Coming from a rich tapestry of Greek, Macedonian and Swedish backgrounds, Argerakis grew up playing hockey and only recently decided to pick up the sport.
“My brothers play AFL and I wanted to try something new,” she said.
The All Nations side took three victories over their 2017 Female Diversity Championships campaign.