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AFLW: 'My knee is brand new', says Blues recruit

Kirby Bentley at the AFL and AccorHotels announcement - AFLW,Carlton Blues,Kirby Bentley
Kirby Bentley at the AFL and AccorHotels announcement

CARLTON AFLW recruit Kirby Bentley says her right knee is fully recovered from surgery, as she prepares to officially start pre-season training with her new club on Wednesday. 

Bentley played the 2017 AFLW season with Fremantle and was named in the All Australian squad, but was delisted after missing the entire 2018 season with a meniscus injury in her knee.

The 32-year-old moved to Melbourne five months ago to take up a position as Reconciliation Action Plan manager at the AFL and has been signed by Carlton as a free agent. 

"My knee is brand new, sound and intact so I'm excited to play again," Bentley said.

"I've played footy for 10 years, I love the game, I grew up thinking I was going to play AFL until I found out I couldn't. Working in the industry, I'm now sitting on the other side of the fence and looking outwards. It’s different, but I enjoy those types of challenges.

"Family is number one for me, but in hindsight, moving to Melbourne was the best decision for me. As an older player, as an indigenous AFLW player as well, I want to pave the way and change the way our girls experience their own journey." 

Bentley was speaking at the announcement of the AFL's partnership extension with AccorHotels for a further four years.

AccorHotels will also offer work opportunities to AFLW players in various departments of the business, giving flexible hours to accommodate for training and games. 

Bentley, who's currently getting up at 4am to complete her weights training before work, highlighted some of the difficulties faced by AFLW players juggling work, study and training for a sport played with national exposure.

"As a female athlete, our challenge is we aren't full-time, so we're not earning a lot of money to establish our lives and what it looks like after footy," Bentley said. 

"We need to make sure we're upskilling ourselves within an industry, whether it's with Accor and what they do or whether it's with the AFL itself, that's why it so important for us to balance and be at work so we're investing in our future." 

AFL general manager of commercial Kylie Rogers said the AFL was proud to be extending its partnership with AccorHotels, who will also be continuing its Indigenous Employment Program which offers training and industry jobs.

"Supporting the employment program is another step in the AFL's commitment to increasing the presence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in relative industries," Rogers said. 

"Providing these women with opportunities to progress off the field ensures long-term growth and a sense of security for life after football.

"It is important to continue partnerships with companies who support our values of diversity and inclusion. We are thrilled to be supporting the employment program and cannot wait to witness the wonderful outcomes and opportunities it provides for women in sport."