Girl Hero Interview

Isabel Huntington



What three qualities do you most value in a person?

Empathy, resilience and kindness are three qualities I value highly in other people, and try to uphold in my own life as well.

What quality do you most value in yourself?

In my particular situation, perseverance has been a particularly important quality to hold in my football, studies, and many other aspects of my life. It has helped me deal with various setbacks such as injuries.

What quality do you find hardest to deal with in other people?

Close-mindedness, as it doesn’t allow for growth.

When do you feel happiest?

Playing football is when I find myself most happy. Whether it be on the field or the training track, the inclusive environment that footy fosters make everything about the sport so enjoyable. I also really enjoy surfing, a very relaxing sporting alternative to footy.

What helps you when you feel discouraged?

Attempting to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel, and acknowledging that the challenges I face are only temporary. Perspective is also incredibly important in situations like these.

What advice would you give to girls wanting to take a message to the world?

Don’t worry what other people think. There will always be people with negative attitudes in the world, but you shouldn’t allow these to hold you back. If there isn’t a clear pathway for you, work hard to create your own. There are still plenty of glass ceilings yet to be broken.

What do you think a hero is?

Someone who inspires others to reach their full potential and proves that there are no limitations to what they can do.

What’s your favourite girl hero word?

‘Her-story’. Representing the way in which women are rewriting history in a number of ways

Who’s your current girl hero?

Daisy Pearce is someone who I, among many other young women, continue to look up to. Daisy is an absolute pioneer when it comes to football and is now beginning to showcase her talents in the media scene, a largely male dominated industry.

What advice would you give your 10-year old self?

Continue to strive to achieve your ambitions and don’t worry about those who question your dreams and abilities.

What’s one thing a girl hero should never do?

Doubt herself because of her gender, or what other people say about her.

What has been a challenge or fear that you have had to overcome?

Being one of few women in a football, a male dominated sport. Whilst that has changed now thanks to a number of pioneers, it was challenging in the early days when no clear pathway existed for women and girls.

If you could change one thing in the world what would it be?

The inequality and intolerance that exists on a number of levels such as gender, race, sexuality, economic status and many more.

When did you first realise you loved playing footy?

I’ve played footy my entire life, and have enjoyed it ever since pulling on my first jumper at age 5. At that stage, it was a rarity for girls to be playing, so I was lucky enough to find my way through a completely male dominated sport. Now that the opportunities for women and young girls in football are developing, I’m loving playing as much as ever. 

What do you love most about playing?

The team aspect of AFL is undoubtably a major factor in my love for the game. It’s a highly social sport and I thoroughly enjoy being able to play and train with dozens of other teammates each week who push each other to continuously improve. The physicality involved in the sport also makes it really enjoyable, and the athleticism required makes both playing and watching AFL very exciting. 

Were you ever told you couldn’t play footy because you were a girl? If so, how did you respond?

As a young girl in a league full of only boys, I was constantly told I couldn’t play AFL. Comments like ‘footy is a man’s game’ were a regular occurrence on and off the field, and many people were shocked to see a young girl playing such a physical sport, an unfortunate stereotype that still exists in today’s world, albeit to a lesser extent. Despite these comments, in addition to regularly being told I was ineligible to play in football teams because I was a girl, I was able to persevere and dismissed such distasteful opinions. Although there were no foreseeable professional pathways for female AFL players at that stage, my love for the game continued and I continued playing. Thankfully, the development of the AFLW league last year has provided me with a professional goal to work towards, and many exciting opportunities along the way.

Have you ever played against boys? How was that? Did they treat you differently?

I played against boys since beginning football at age 5, until I was forced to stop playing in a mixed team at age 14, due to regulations imposed on all girls. Whilst I loved playing in these leagues, which provided a fantastic challenge for me, it was difficult at times, given I was the only girl in the team. I was treated differently by some, however was fully supported and treated as just another team member by many in the football clubs that I was involved in. 

What is your football dream?

My football dream is to play in the newly formed AFL Women’s League, and hopefully be drafted in October. 2017 marked the inaugural year of the AFLW, and far exceeded the expectations of all. I’ve always wanted to play professional football, however these dreams had to be dismissed from a young age when there were no professional pathways for women in AFL. Now that the AFLW is available for female footballers, young girls have an abundance of role models to look up to, and can have clear visions of their future in the sport, whether that be in a playing or an off-field capacity, such as in football media.

You also want to study to become a doctor? Why?

Since the beginning of high school, I’ve harboured ambitions to study medicine. For me, the idea of combining my love of learning and studying medical based scientific concepts, with my desire for a career involving communications and interactions, is easily fulfilled in medicine. Whilst the pathway of becoming a doctor will be undoubtably difficult and lengthy, I am excited for the possibilities that lie ahead.

Will you be able to combine both?

At this stage, I am planning on combining both my studies, whether that involve studying medicine straightaway of completing an undergraduate science or biomedicine degree, and my football commitments. The timing of the AFLW season, given its semi-professional nature, is designed to cause minimal conflict with the study or work schedules of the players. If I were to be drafted, I will aim to work hard and balance both, as most other AFLW players have already done, including a fully qualified doctor playing for the Western Bulldogs, Tiarna Ernst. However, given the rapid development in popularity for the AFLW and women’s footy in general, there are likely to be many changes occurring in the structure of the AFLW in years to come, so I will have to take it one step at a time and balance accordingly. 

What do you think?