• The 21-year-old gridiron gun is honoured to be the first Indigenous woman selected to represent her country and culture at the IFAF Women's World Championship (NITV News)Source: NITV News
In a world first, Muroona woman, Grace Power, has been selected as the first Indigenous women to make the Australian Gridiron team.
By
Laura Morelli

3 May 2017 - 6:35 PM  UPDATED 3 May 2017 - 8:40 PM

The 21-year-old is set to travel to Canada in June this year for the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Women’s World Championship, and if she goes it will be the first time the small town Bowen girl has ever step foot out of her country.

"To represent my country and my culture this year at the IFAF Women's World Championship in Canada is a great honour and a dream come true to me," Grace said.

"I remember getting bullied in school...one kid coming up to me saying: ‘my father says your sheets are so dirty that you have to bleach them’.”

The Gridiron gun first got on the field playing lingerie league for the Brisbane Brigade.

“Yes we had to wear lingerie, but I tell you what – these girls are fit and take it seriously, they’re monsters!”

Grace almost gave up football when her team’s season was cancelled right before game one.

“I felt so let down. We put 10 weeks of hard-core training and didn’t even get a chance to play a game.”

Luckily enough, the Bayside Ravens noticed the team training and didn’t want their efforts going to waste, so they decided to start their very own first female full kit team.

Following a gruelling national selection process where squads were cut down from 150 to 52 women, Grace was a standout, and she says all her hard work paid off with one special letter.

“I remember opening that email at the beginning of March, I was speechless. I read it about 10 times to confirm,” she said.

“The negative stuff form the past is what gives me my drive and aggression to play how I play. People think I’m a really lovely girl off the field but everyone’s scared of me when I am on it.”

“I called my parents who had the phone on loudspeaker and when I told them my mother replied saying: ‘hold on I need to pick your father off the floor’,” Grace giggled as she explained that her parents are her biggest supporters.

It wasn’t always an easy ride for Grace. During her first year at school she developed a speech impediment because she so was severely bullied for being Aboriginal.

In class kids would put my lunch down the toilet, tease me, I remember one coming up to me saying: ‘my father says your sheets are so dirty that you have to bleach them’,” she recalled.

"It got to the point where I was bullied so much that I had to be removed from class and put in to a ‘special needs class’ because I couldn’t talk properly from fear.”

Once her parents found out, they removed her from school and went to live back in Bowen. The aspiring footy star, who’s related to Indigenous artist, Marcus Corowa, says it all made her stronger. In fact she says she uses those negative memories to channel her energy on the field.

“It’s bittersweet – I wish that upon nobody but I’m able to take the positives from that situation and it has made me stronger and overall has prepared me for where I am today,” she said.

“The negative stuff form the past is what gives me my drive and aggression to play how I play. People think I’m a really lovely girl off the field but everyone’s scared of me when I am on it.”

Grace is confident she will show how mean her green and gold colours can get in Canada, but Grace says the international sports trip will cost her more than eight thousand dollars, which is money she doesn’t have.

"Because we’re not men, we don’t receive funding. I actually need a full time job to support myself, go to the gym before work, come home, cook dinner, clean up and get to bed, all so I can repeat this the next day.”

“It’s a lot of money to go and play in the world championships. We have to pay for our flights, insurance our kit – which is over $400, special boots to play with, and registration fees.”

Which is why Grace has started a Gofundme page, so she can earn enough money to become the first Indigenous woman to play for Australia’s first female Gridiron National team, and hopefully tackle the shiny gold medal.

Almost one thousand dollars closer to her dream, Grace says the support has been overwhelming.

“It means a lot to me. I’ve had several situations where I’ve had my dreams knocked down because of my skin colour or because I’m a woman. I’ve been told to stop playing this sport because it’s ‘unattractive’ and that it’s a ‘man’s sport’ and that there’s ‘no place for women’s football’, she said.

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Despite pushing forward and pursing her dreams, she believes that women have to work harder than men in this industry.

“I love training but at the same time it’s mentally and physically draining. People have to understand because we’re not men, we don’t receive any funding. I actually need a full time job to support myself, go to the gym before work, come home, cook dinner, clean up and get to bed, all so I can repeat this the next day.”

When Grace isn’t passing balls, she’s picking up phones and working as a receptionist at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service, (ATSICHS), in Brisbane Jimbelunga.

The full time worker says her coach, Dr Jennifer Weltr, inspired her to work harder and proved that women can make a difference in the sporting world.

“Our coach is actually the first female NFL coach in the States. That is a huge achievement for any woman to score that label, especially in such a male dominant sport. So to have her as my coach is a dream come true – and an inspiration for all women.”

If Grace receives enough funding she will travel to Canada to play in the IFAF Women’s World Championship. The event will be hosted by Football Canada in partnership with the British Columbia Provincial Football Association (BCPFA). The six-team event features the top female tackle football players from around the world. Participating nations include the United States, the reigning and two-time women’s worlds gold medallist, the respective gold and silver European championship medallists, Finland and Great Britain, as well as Australia, Mexico, and Canada.

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