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Fleeced: how an AFLW skipper turned farming rouseabout during lockdown

My parents, Michael and Loretta, bought the 660-acre property when I was little, and I lived there for 18 years. Dad is a sheep farmer and produces wool and meat. My brother, Josh, came back too after being stood down from his job and together we rolled up our sleeves and helped out in any way we could. This meant getting up at 6am and working through to about 6pm pulling down fences and being a “rouseabout” – that’s what we call an unskilled worker that helps in the shearing shed. To be a rouseabout, I would pick up the fleece and throw it on the tables and sweep up a bit. While it might not sound like much, it was bloody hard work and after a 12-hour day I would then have to find time to complete my strength and conditioning program.

All the players were given running and gym sessions to complete but it was challenging because we couldn’t access gyms. I loved how creative some players were. Some used wheelie bins as their squat racks while others re-purposed various household items to complete their exercises. On the farm I used hay bales to practise marking, the beams in the shearing shed to do chin-ups and pull-ups, while the sheep tracks in the paddocks became my running circuits.

As a team we would catch up via Zoom, but as most people know, it is tiring sitting and looking at a computer screen.

Kearney in action during the semi-final win against Collingwood in March last year, before the season was called off.

Kearney in action during the semi-final win against Collingwood in March last year, before the season was called off.Credit:Getty Images

For those who don’t know me, I am a bit of an introvert and quite frankly, I loved the first part of lockdown. But after a while it started to get me down. I missed my family and friends back in Melbourne. I missed my daily routines and I missed playing sport. I had to work on staying positive and used my daily exercise regime to boost my mental health. I also used impromptu phone conversations with friends or family to keep me up and about.

All AFLW players have shown incredible grit and determination to prepare themselves for the season. Being part-time athletes and juggling full-time work always has its challenges, even more so during a pandemic. We have nurses, doctors, police and fire officers who have worked many hours of overtime and others are on the COVID-19 front lines working seven days a week to ensure the safety of the community. There’s no shortage of inspiration to draw on and that’s without a ball even being kicked.

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I truly hope all our fans and supporters of AFLW come out in force to cheer us on after what has been a challenging year for everyone. I sincerely wish that the resumption of our great game will bring some normality back to people’s lives and provide an outlet for us all to wash away the frustrations of the past 12 months.

After all, there’s a lot of unfinished business, so the 2021 AFLW season will be one to watch.

Emma Kearney is North Melbourne’s AFLW captain.

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