She is Abbey Holmes and she is a rising star to watch in the next year’s AFL women’s league.
The 25-year-old South Australian has carved out a sparkling footy career since moving to the Northern Territory and picking up a Sherrin four years ago. She is touted to be drafted by the Adelaide Crows for the inaugural season of the national competition in 2017.
“I can’t even put it into words what that would mean to me. I was born in 1991, the Adelaide Crows inaugural year in the AFL, so I can say I’ve supported them my whole life,’’ she said.
“The Crows alignment with the NT is really significant to me, that’s where I’ve really achieved my football traits. So to hopefully represent both of those places would mean the world to me.
“I haven’t been able to wipe the smile off my face since the announcement of the women’s league."
“Especially being a South Australian girl, seeing the Adelaide Crows called out first up was such a surreal feeling.
“You look at all the young women and kids involved in the game and now there’s an elite level for them to aspire to and it’s just fantastic because that’s never existed. It’s quite disappointing that in the past girls have got to 12 or 13 years old and been more or less turned away from the game because there wasn’t a pathway for them.
“Now there’s a national competition I can’t wait to see it grow over many, many years to come.”
Holmes sweet Holmes
Holmes grew up in Victor Harbor playing netball, represented South Australia then Australia at junior level then continued playing the sport when she moved north with her then partner, who was playing in the men’s NTFL summer competition.
She also competed in body building.
“Netball was always my background from a young age, I played wing attack and centre, and when I moved to the Territory I jumped ship and represented NT for a couple of years,’’ she said.
“Once I moved to Darwin I pretty much got into football straight away, the girls I played netball with were also footballers and it’s quite good up there because our seasons run opposite to one another, footy from October to March then netball March to September.
“I got to play the two sports I love all-year round.”
Debuting in 2012-13, Holmes quickly made her mark at Waratah Football Club as a star full forward.
In her second season, she booted 100 goals in 14 games. Her biggest haul in a single game was 16.5 against Tracy Village in February 2014.
Earlier this year Waratah won its fifth straight premiership. Holmes has played in the Tahs’ past four flags and won the league goal kicking in each year.
“We’ve got some great players obviously but our coaching staff are fantastic and because we have the depth in our playing group if you don’t rock up to training or you don’t put in the hard yards you’re not going to get a guernsey. We’ve got really high standards and culture is such a massive thing at the club,’’ she said.
“The girls get along really well and that definitely translates to how we play on the field and that’s one of the best things about playing football, those relationships and the friendships that you build.”
Success not always elementary
But with all the success came disappointment when Holmes was overlooked in the 2013 and 2014 drafts for the Melbourne vs Western Bulldogs exhibition games.
“It was disappointing because it was something I set out to achieve the last few years but at the same time you can’t dwell on it, you’ve really got to take the feedback on board and try and be bigger, better, stronger with each game that comes along,’’ she said.
“After not being drafted the last couple of years I asked for some feedback and some people just said my game was a little bit too one dimensional - leading out, taking a mark and kicking a goal and they wanted to see me push up the ground a little bit more. That’s been something I’ve been working on over the last season and a bit, playing through the midfield and across centre half forward
“Initially I felt a little bit lost. At full forward everything unfolds in front of you and when you’re playing in the middle everything is happening around you, so it’s game awareness. I was like a fish out of water to start with, but I slotted in quickly and loved playing through the middle last season.
“I’d like to say I’m an in-and-under sort of player, get in there and get the ball out to the running midfielders. I still try and do all the hard things for the team and still kicked 48 goals last season.”
After the Waratahs triumphed in March Holmes made the move south to Melbourne. As a member of the AFL NT academy she played in a women’s exhibition game against Tasmania in Melbourne, one of 10 showcase fixtures this year.
She lined up for the NT again on May 28 in a clash against South Australia at the Adelaide Oval, a curtain raiser game to the Adelaide v Greater Western Sydney AFL match in Round 10.
“I tore cartilage off a couple of my ribs in the grand final then re did it against Tassie then did it again six weeks later in Adelaide, it’s a frustrating injury because there’s nothing you can do for it. Just rest, no rehab,’’ she said.
“I’d been training with St Kilda Sharks (Victorian Women’s Football League side) but haven’t been able to play for them yet.”
The injury has allowed Holmes to patrol the sidelines as boundary rider for Channel 7’s VFL coverage.
A game is telecast each Sunday morning but the commentary team has just completed a busy month of double header Saturday-Sunday matches.
The gig came about through a connection with Sunrise presenter Mark Beretta. Holmes played, and kicked a couple of goals, on Beretta in The Slowdown, a South Australian legends charity match, last year.
With her composure, confidence and thoughtful questions to coaches and players, Holmes has eased in to the role seamlessly.
She even beat fellow commentator and Hawthorn premiership hard man Campbell Brown in a goal kicking competition in the pre-match of last round’s coverage.
“I’m absolutely loving it, we’ve got a fantastic team and I felt part of it as soon as I slotted into the role,’’ she said.
“We all get along and work together well as a team. It’s pretty much a dream come true for me, to have a job talking about football, something I love and am passionate about.
“I’m loving what I’m doing, hopefully I can continue to grow in the role, I’m still very new and have a lot to learn, but I feel like I’m definitely getting better each week.”
A real estate agent still working with Darwin clients from her Melbourne base, Holmes also has an active wear label, Esnetica, which has just released its second range.
“I’ve always been a busy person so I don’t know any different, it’s just making sure you’ve got good time management skills and are putting into each arm 100 per cent because there’s no point doing something half arsed,’’ she said.
And despite her busy lot, Holmes has one burning ambition.
“I want to get drafted first and foremost,’’ she said.
“I want to work as hard as I possibly can to be the best player and best person I can be and if I can become a role model for young girls that’s the ultimate goal isn’t it? “Having girls see what can be achieved then aiming to do that themselves, there’s nothing better.”