Congratulations Renee. You are the Saints first female president. Last year approximately 25% of our players were females. What do you think is attracting so many young females to AFL?
I love that the number of girls playing AFL is increasing and that AFL isn’t just seen as a boys sport any more, particularly with the AFLW making headlines. The thing about girls is that they bring their friends and in my experience, even though many might hesitate at the thought of what might be involved in playing AFL, once they get in and try it they end up wanting to come back for more. I wish that I was able to play AFL when I was young! I would have loved it.
I understand you grew up in the area, with Heffron Park your second home. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood, the sports you played and what it was like growing up around Heffron Park?
My parents took over the Matraville Tennis and Squash centre (now Matraville Sports Centre) in 1987 and have been there ever since. Mum and Dad were passionate about teaching kids how to play tennis, and then keeping them playing tennis for life. My younger sister, brother and I spent much of our time there and we all ended up being good tennis players.
I was national champion in my age group as a junior, I represented Australia in a number of different teams during my junior years. I played for a couple of years on the tour getting to a high ranking of 160, until I busted my ankle badly. It required a couple of surgeries and I wasn’t able to return to the tour. I continued playing competitively within Australia for many years in different formats and it’s only been in the last few years that I have hung up my racquets.
What are some of the life lessons you’ve learnt from your time as an athlete?
Playing competitive sport gives you so many skills, some of which are obvious and some that are not there for the eye to see. When you’re running around a sports field there are the obvious physical attributes of an athlete, plus the mental skills you need to be able to compete.
But I think that the most important skills that you gain are not so visible, things such as resilience, creativity, communication, drive, team work.
The same goes for kids playing sports like AFL, yes they can run around and have fun playing but they are learning more than just how to kick a ball and how to handball.
How did you first become involved with The Saints?
I brought my daughter to a training session a couple of seasons ago, she really wasn’t convinced that she would like it. I told her to have a go at a training session and if she didn’t like it she didn’t have to play. It was raining that day, it was muddy and she had the best time. She came home and said, that’s the sport that I want to play.
Do you have any thoughts or ideas for parents who might be considering becoming more involved with The Saints? Where should they start?
A great way to start to get involved and meet people is by volunteering at the canteen or on the BBQ!
Where do you see the best opportunities for our club to grow over the next 3 years?
To grow the club the focus needs to be on Auskick, getting the kids in early. This is something that we need to do in partnership with the AFL but that is the future.
Once they are in and become part Saints family we can nurture them through to their teens with our inclusive culture and the great team of people working for the club.
Why do you think it’s so important for children to be involved with a local sporting club?
This is where they make connections for the duration of their school years, and hopefully for life! Plus the skills you pick up, which I have previously mentioned.
And what about your own family? Are they involved in different sports?
We all keep pretty active and play a variety of sports. Nippers, tennis, cricket, footy, basketball, skiing, backyard handball whatever! My husband Steve used to play for the Maroubra Sinners and was a good cricketer when he was younger.
Which footy team do you follow? Why?
The swannies all the way. My dad grew up in Bondi but his family hailed from the Riverina, and he was into the VFL/AFL way before the rest of Sydney caught on.
He used to take us to the SCG when only around 2,000 people would turn up.
Flat White, Long Black, Latte, Sav Blanc, Sparkling Water or Skinny Cap?
Depending on time of day and whether it’s appropriate, sparkling water or wine!
Bacon and Egg roll, Sausage roll, Salad roll or Meat Pie?
Always the roll with the works at the BBQ on a weekend morning.
How do you keep yourself fit these days?
I have had bursitis in my hip for the past year so my level of fitness isn’t quite where I would like it to be! However I am back doing Crossfit a few days a week for the past few months. I need something that stokes the competitive fires within.
I have also been learning how to play AFL, the UNSW Easts Bulldogs have been kind enough to take me for a few training sessions. Look out AFL draft for 2021!
Any final thoughts or suggestions for The Saints community before the 2020 season starts?
Welcome back to all returning families, and welcome to all of the new. I hope that this year brings lots of fun, great footy, good times and connections for both adults and kids with our Saints community. (And maybe a few trophies at the end of the season).