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AFLW: Buddy-like arc to Queensland gun's game

Sarah Black  October 13, 2017 6:32 AM

AFLW: The next wave of stars Meet eight players in line to be picked at the 2017 NAB AFLW Draft
The coaches try to snap it out of me. I go, 'Nup, 'Buddy' Franklin kicks on an arc, I can have an arc too'

QUEENSLAND'S Kalinda Howarth always wanted to play a contact sport, but her dad wasn't as keen.

He put his foot down when it came to rugby league, but when a 12-year-old Kalinda asked if she could play football, he relented.

She's now an under-18 state representative and has nominated for the Queensland section of the state-based NAB AFL Women’s Draft on October 18.

"I started playing footy for a school competition in grade seven. I just got asked to come down," Howarth said.

"Dad gave me the all clear to play AFL. He wasn't a fan of AFL, so he was like, 'Oh, it's just a girls' sport, you can play that,'" she said with a wry smile.

A Gold Coast local, the 18-year-old started playing senior footy last year with Coolangatta in the premier division of the QWAFL. She had previously worked her way through junior ranks, first with Southport, then Labrador. 

"The first year was a bit of a challenge with the bigger bodies. In junior footy I used to be able to run the whole field and didn't have a set position, but getting used to being in a set position is like playing representative footy all the time,” she said. 

"I've had some really good mentors, like Leah Kaslar and Selina Goodman, a few Brisbane Lions girls at Coolangatta who really set the tone and standard.

"I pretty much stay at half-forward most of the time, but I do get thrown around a little bit. I enjoy getting up the ground but also pushing hard forward because I do like to kick goals." 

She said the first AFLW season benefited the whole QWAFL competition, with Brisbane Lions-listed players bringing greater professionalism back to their state league clubs. 

"Before we wouldn't even do a warm-up or cool-down. Now we have the full intensive warm-up the Brisbane girls run,” Howarth said.

"They're not just focused on themselves and improving as individuals, they're trying to make everyone come up to the same standards, which is great. 

"We even had a couple of other Brisbane girls go from our club to Wilston Grange to lift their standards because they were a struggling club." 

Howarth certainly loves her footy, working full-time at the Gold Coast Suns as a community programs trainee. 

She works closely with Queensland under-18 coach Michael Gugliotta, the community manager at the Suns. Together, they were involved in the Suns' bid for an AFLW licence, with Howarth even flying to Melbourne to make a presentation to the AFL Executive. The Suns were successful and will join the AFLW competition in 2020.

"Kalinda has a bit of 'X-factor',"Gugliotta said. 

"She's got a lot of poise, so while she's not the quickest, she gets that five metres on her opponent. Couple that with her elite skills, she's brilliant. 

"I manage her day-to-day at the Suns. Kalinda can be a little bit outwardly blasé, but there's so much hard work that goes on behind the scenes. She's in the gym every day." 

A member of the NAB AFL Women's academy, Howarth said the experience has been eye-opening, with girls shown the professional standards required for elite football.

"What the boys have been able to have access to all this time, we're getting access to it too. I speak with a smile on my face every time. We got given footy boots and mouthguards – everything, in fact. It's just incredible."

A self-confessed "tricky" forward, Howarth loves doing the unexpected on the field.

"I try to think outside the box when I play, just do everything opposite to what a normal player would do. My idol is Swans forward Lance Franklin, because we both kick on an arc.

"The coaches try to snap it out of me. I go, 'Nup, 'Buddy' Franklin kicks on an arc, I can have an arc too'."

When asked whether she liked watching now-retired Cats and Giants forward Steve Johnson, another "tricky" forward, Howarth reluctantly drew comparisons.

"I guess in a sense I am a bit like 'Stevie J'. I never would like to admit it – I'm a Hawks supporter,” she said.

"I guess if you'd describe me as a player, it would probably be him, because I get up and about and I get a bit chirpy. 

"Oh, I don't like that," she said with a laugh.

The NAB AFL Women's Draft will be held in Melbourne on October 18, with a live stream on AFL.com.au/womens from 12pm.