Women’s AFL player Emma Swanson on making the impossible possible in sport

by frank-stuart

“It was always my dream to play AFL but I knew pretty early on that girls didn’t play in the league,” Emma Swanson said. “I didn’t understand why. I just knew it wasn’t possible. Well, now it is.”

When eight teams were granted licences to compete in the inaugural women’s league, the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants selected Emma as a marquee player.

“Being paid to play AFL is a dream come true,” she said.

While the women are not full-time athletes the success of the first season means this achievement may not be far away.

“Being able to play in the women’s league has eclipsed anything anyone could have hoped for,” Emma said.

“I was in the right place at the right time. In future years, we may say that we were pioneers. Right now, I say it’s as much about 2017 as 2027 – we’re laying the path for the game’s future.”

Emma Swanson

(Photo supplied)

Emma is also clear about her own future.

“My priority is to become a full-time, elite athlete with a Sports Business degree. Studying towards a degree takes a lot of load off my mind. I can focus on footy and know that I will have my degree when I finish playing.

“I thought it was impossible to work, live independently, play football and study. But ACPE’s Elite Athlete Program has made it possible. It’s fantastic! Don’t shy away from study.”

Emma studies two units on campus and one unit online.

“I like the balance of the two. Being on campus keeps me accountable and studying online means I can schedule my study around training, games and travel. I’ve been in the sports industry for about six years so I know the skills are transferrable.”

Emma started out at the West Australian Football Commission, working on programs to encourage greater participation in AFL. As she worked my way up, she realised her colleagues had sports business degrees.

Now working three days per week with the GWS Giants men’s side, Emma is a Community and Player Liaison Officer.

“I love the role because I’m working in a high-performance sports environment and I’m supporting the players’ welfare. Plus, I’m using skills I’ve learnt in my degree.”

In the off-season, Emma plays football for the Macquarie University Women’s side. She may also squeeze in a game or two when she gets home to Western Australia.

“I’d play all the time but I’ve also got to stay fresh for next season.”

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