AFLW Lions CEO Breeanna Brock never imagined an AFLW game would be played anywhere let alone in the place she called home as a teenager.
Twenty-six years later, her Lions side is preparing to take on Essendon in an AFLW blockbuster this Sunday at Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex, Burpengary.
Brock and her family moved to Burpengary in 1996 after time overseas and interstate. She completed Years 11 and 12 at Dakabin State High School.
“When I was at school there were no more than two other boys that even liked AFL,” she recalls.
During that time, there were a limited number of clubs and girls’ AFL was not even on the radar.
Brock and her two sisters started playing AFL with the Redcliffe Tigers when she was 25 years old, they later moved to a club at Zillmere where she had her first taste of sporting administration.
She then became involved in Auskick clinics and went on to work for the AFLNT as the Darwin Regional Manager where she was tasked with enhancing women and girls' participation in the region.
She progressed to AFL Queensland where she played a key role in creating a full playing pathway for women and girls as the Female Programs Coordinator before joining the Lions as their Head of Women’s Football in 2017 ahead of the inaugural season of the NAB AFL Women’s Competition.
Brock was the first female Head of Women’s Football to be appointed in the AFL and received the AFL Football Woman of the Year Award the following year.
In her six-year tenure at the Lions, she has cemented Queensland’s reputation as one of the powerhouse states for women’s AFL and was at the helm of the program alongside Head Coach Craig Starcevich when the Lions won their first AFLW Premiership in 2021.
From Redcliffe Tiger to Brisbane Lion
Brock says her father was the footballer in the household and getting involved in the sport was not something she considered as a young girl.
“I never remember thinking, ‘I wish I could play’,” she says.
She played other sports and was even a professional tennis coach for 10 years.
When a friend said they had seen girls playing at the Redcliffe Tigers, Brock and her sisters thought it was something they could do together.
“We just went along and had the best time. Everyone loved it,” she recalls.
“Since then, for all three of us it’s taken us on different journeys and been a huge part of our lives.”
They were hooked from the first training session and, as it turned out, the side was short of players for an upcoming match and they made the team.
The first game was a baptism of fire, as they discovered playing was very different to watching AFL.
Growing the game for women, girls
There has been huge growth in the game since it began in 2017 and Brock says growing pathways, by adding under-18s, under-15s and under-13s and junior competitions has been essential.
“It’s about providing opportunity. If you build it, they will come,” Brock says.
“There were 6000 girls doing Auskick and only 400 in footy.
|“It’s intimidating as a small person or the only girl in the club or team. Adding age groups has helped hugely. They’ve found their tribe, sisterhood.|
“They’re loving going out there and having a go in an environment where they’re encouraged to be loud, rough and get dirty.”
Brock says the strong bonds formed between women and girls in a footy team are like no other, with players empowering each other.
“That is why our sport is the No.1 growth sport for women,” she says.
While the sport has made huge leaps forward, Brock says there’s more that can be done at club level to improve facilities to attract boys and girls to the sport.
She says there also needs to be gender equity in club committees, so decisions are made with balanced viewpoint.
Equal access is also essential to the best fields, training and fixture times.
She says the majority of household decisions are made by women, and if they play or are involved in the sport their children are more likely to play.
Brock wants to see more female coaches and umpires, so women are actively involved in the game and not just watching from the sidelines.
Lions face Essendon in AFLW clash
The Brisbane Lions will take on Essendon in round 6 of the AFLW on October 2 (12.10pm kick-off) at Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex at Burpengary. Entry is free.
The Lions are top of table on 16 points, but there’s very little between the top-five teams. Essendon are 10th.
Brock says the Lions has been able to hold on to pretty much the same team which played earlier in the year, which has had a double competition following COVID-19 disruptions.
The players are used to each other’s playing style and have built momentum.
“We can see the benefits of that. We’re in a nice position to capitalise on that,” Brock explains.
A surprise four-point loss to Richmond last weekend, proves the side is not invincible and Brock says they are not underestimating Essendon.
“Anyone can get you if you’re not 100 per cent. We have to come ready to take them then on,” she says.
“When you’re at the top of the ladder, everyone wants to knock you off. They have great players. It’s going to be a great game.
“It’s a good day out. It’s school holidays, people are looking for things to do. I would love to see the local community get behind this team.”
Who: Brisbane Lions vs Essendon
Where: Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex, Burpengary
When: Sunday 2 October @ 12:10pm
Gates open: 11am
The match is brought to you by Moreton Bay Regional Council.
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