Code breaker: Georgie Parker, 28, Australian rules footballer
The first AFL women’s game? I watched it with my hockey team, Antwerp. I was showing them all these pictures and videos of the game and they were absolutely awestruck because of the crowd and the atmosphere.
It was a pretty weird couple of months when I was over there. I’d just finished playing the national program with hockey. I was over in Europe essentially on holidays. I’d been just travelling around and playing a hockey game every now and then in the local competition.
The process began once Collingwood and the Crows had discussions with me. I had no intention of playing football. I didn’t even know I was going to retire from hockey but I was travelling and I kind of didn’t want to come back into such a high-pressure environment after such a disappointing 2016 [the Hockeyroos lost in the quarter-finals of the Rio Olympics]. Then this opportunity presented itself and I couldn’t say no.
You really miss the competitive nature of being an athlete. In Belgium it was a different sort of environment. It was the local comp as opposed to the national comp, so I was really missing that competitive environment; missing pushing myself in the gym and on the track. So it kind of popped up and I thought, “I might as well just give it a crack and see how it goes.” Just when I was celebrating the fact that I was never going to have to run a fitness test or have my skinfolds done again.
There are a lot of similarities that people don’t really realise in hockey and football. Especially in terms of structure. A lot of AFL coaches actually spend time with our Australian national hockey coaches watching us train. We had Swans come in, Hawks come in, Fremantle come in, Crows come in to watch how we train and watch our processes and our structure.
There are also lots of differences, of course. It’s not a round ball and you’re kicking it and not hitting it. But I’m not there to be the most skilful player; I’m there to get the ball and get in the space and use my spatial awareness.
Every time I go anywhere I want to watch sports live. I went to America and all we did was watch ice hockey, NFL, basketball, baseball. You go watch everything you can because every sport sort of moulds into one, and that’s coming from my upbringing where I played countless sports. Every sport that was available to me, I wanted to play.
I played basketball until I was 18, I played tennis growing up, I was in the junior Australian lacrosse team. I had lots of different sporting adventures growing up and I ended up picking hockey. But I love sport – I love playing it, I love watching it, I love analysing it, critiquing it.
It’s a really big part of Australian culture. You can learn a lot of things from sport and, if you apply it to the real world, it can make you a better person as well, so that’s why I sort of live my life by it and I love it. You don’t see me on a weekend watching bad TV; I sit there watching the football, game after game, then the review and then potentially the replay of the games.
Collingwood is the least favourite team in our family. Or was. Mum was very hopeful that I was going to play for the Crows. The lifelong dream of me as a little girl was to be a Crows player.
“Uh, why are you choosing Collingwood?” I got that a lot. I think you either love or hate them, but you have to respect them; they’re the most professional club in Australia. They’ve got the most resources, the most supporters; they’re just the biggest and most successful and professional club that you could go to. So for me it was a bit of a no-brainer to be in such a professional environment.
We’re creating our own history and we don’t need to ride off the men. They’ve got their 150-year history, whereas we’ve got one year. So for us it’s about creating those close-contest games and making those rivalries ourselves. We don’t need to be going off those club histories because we can do it ourselves.
I love social media. The banter you can have with fans, the banter you can have with people that you’re a fan of, and it’s this endless little cycle of information, whether it’s good or bad. We used to call it the “Athlete Tinder”.
I do like the trick shots. I did this in hockey as well; I used to stand on the baseline and hit balls on my backhand until that’s all I could do, basically. But for now I’ll be a little bit more humble than kicking those stupid goals from the boundary.
This week’s highlights…
• Cycling: Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race
Saturday and Sunday, Geelong, Barwon Heads, Torquay
• Tennis: Australian Open women’s and men’s finals
Saturday and Sunday, 7.30pm (AEDT), Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Park
• Netball: Australian Diamonds v New Zealand Silver Ferns
Sunday, 9pm (AEDT), Ellis Park Arena, Johannesburg
• Cricket: Australia v England, 5th ODI
Sunday, 11.20am (AWST), Optus Stadium, Perth
• Cycling: Track National Championships
Thursday until February 4, Anna Meares Velodrome, Brisbane
• AFLW: Carlton v Collingwood
Friday, 7.45pm (AEDT), Ikon Park, Melbourne
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jan 27, 2018 as "Code breaker". Subscribe here.