Irish defender Laura Duryea of Melbourne’s AFLW team, who previously represented Ireland in Gaelic Football, fell in love with Australia more than nine years ago.
She played her first year of AFL with Melbourne University, after her interest to play a ‘more physical’ game peaked.
Duryea then found herself at Diamond Creek Football Club, where she played for nine years before being drafted to Melbourne Women’s Team to play AFLW in the games’ inaugural season.
Today, wearing the famous Jim Stynes number 11, Duryea made the trek down to Power House Amateur Football Club on Albert Park Lake, to train and teach a large group of enthusiastic women about what it takes to truly “play like a girl”.
Power House Football Club is a central location for Irish recruits in Melbourne, so it’s no surprise that Duryea fit right in with the culture and felt comfortable with all the players and coaching staff.
Further, many of the women who will play for the ‘House’ in 2018 have arrived from the Pearces Gaelic Club, who also train on the Ross Gregory Oval and are eager to take up the physical game of AFL this coming season.
Duryea focussed her training on building basic skills necessary for protection, but also worked on building game-like intensity.
With four drill stations set up, more than 40 women had the opportunity to work closely with Duryea and Power House’s coaching team to improve their basic kicking, tackling and handballing skills, with match simulation activities included.
Power House inaugural player and pocket rocket Becky Lou praised Duryea for clarifying each step to perfecting each necessary skill.
“The way that she broke it down for someone who doesn’t really know the game, that was key,” Becky said.
When asked what she learnt from the session, Power House’s own Irish player, Anna Kennedy discussed game pressure.
“Definitely the tackles [were the best thing we learnt], learning how to get in [the pack] properly, coming in from each side.”
When asked to comment on the skills of the session, Duryea had nothing but praise for the willing women.
“There was a massive range of skills and it was great to give them those little pointers. You could see the improvement straight away,” Duryea said.
Duryea also gave some handy advice for the up-and-coming group of players.
“Work hard on those fundamentals and the basics. Buy a footy, have a footy, use it,”
“Have a balance and have fun. It shouldn’t be a chore, it should be something you’re enjoying, so keep that in mind.” She said.
Duryea, who is a primary school teacher away from footy, then mentioned the important lessons from footy that she educates her class with daily.
“I tell them ‘You know, we’ve got to be resilient’. I have big chats and tell them that it’s not all about winning or the glory and sometimes you don’t get picked so you’ve got to work harder.”
Further, she noted that it’s not just the young girls who look up to her, but also the young boys who respect her too.
“The girls are always going to look up to us, but the fact that the boys [in my class] do too, that’s something special.”
While Duryea sometimes struggles to switch from her footy brain to her teaching brain, she’s absolutely in love with what she’s doing.
From Ireland to Australia, from the classroom to the football field, she’s at home, teaching a new generation, the next generation, of children, players, girls, women…and anyone else who cares to listen…that there has never been a better time to reach outside your comfort zone and allow yourself the opportunity to grow.