STICKY-TAPE numbers, bike shorts and t-shirts.

These were essential parts of the playing outfits for the first wave of female footballers.

It was a far cry from the slick guernseys AFLW players wear today, tailored to fit the players' bodies and covered with sponsor logos.

"I remember our first match. We actually rolled out in sticky tape numbers, bicycle pants and t-shirts," Debbie Lee says on In Her Boots, a short film created by AFLW partner Johnnie Walker that documents the creation of five special pairs of footy boots.


While Lee's football journey might seem like one from the distant past, it was part of the first steps towards the establishment of the AFLW.

Now the stories of trailblazers like Lee are set to inspire the current crop of female footballers and push the next generation even further.

Lee is among more than 20 football pioneers who have gifted a pair of their old boots to a select few AFLW players, including multi-sport athlete Chloe Dalton.

The five pairs of boots. Picture: Supplied

The tools of the trade once covered in mud, sweat and tears have now been crafted into five striking pairs of boots as part of Johnnie Walker’s 'Keep Walking Boldly' campaign that celebrates the strides forward that have been made in women’s sport.

Each pair of the handcrafted boots represents the resilience, courage and bravery of the women who once played in them, and aim to inspire current and future players to 'Keep Walking Boldly'.

Olympic gold medallist and Greater Western Sydney dasher Dalton was presented with a unique set created from the boots gifted by Lee, Erin Phillips, Lynn Smith, Joanne Huggins and Emma Zielke.

The boots gifted to Ally Anderson. Picture: Supplied

"These boots represent having a dream. The passion. The journey. They represent that era," the football icons say in In Her Boots

Brisbane's reigning AFLW best and fairest winner Ally Anderson, Hawthorn's boom recruit Emily Bates and Collingwood's cross-code gun Ashleigh Brazill have also received a pair of custom boots.

Ruby Schleicher was presented with the fifth set of boots at the W Awards, with outgoing head of women's football Nicole Livingstone presenting the Collingwood defender with the boots which included a contribution from Shannon McFerran.

Nicole Livingstone presents Ruby Schleicher with a pair of boots as part of the Johnnie Walker: In Her Boots campaign. Picture: Supplied

While the works of art are a tribute to the trailblazers and celebrate the progress that women's footy has already made, it is hoped each pair of boots will one day be passed on again as a symbol to keep pushing the game forward.

A quote from one of the football mavericks is imprinted on each pair of boots as a further reminder of how far footy has come since women began playing the game, and the exciting journey ahead.

When you keep walking you pave the way for others.

- Debbie Lee

Debbie Lee has carved out a decorated career as a player, coach and administrator, and was the first woman to be inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

The AFLW changemaker had to overcome challenges and adversity on the way but understands her journey has laid the foundations for football as it is today.

The quote embedded on Dalton's boots acknowledges the bold strides already made by the groundbreakers of the women's game, as well as the bigger leaps still to come.

My boots were the final piece of my battle outfit – they made me walk taller.

- Narelle Smith

Narelle Smith was instrumental in kickstarting women's football in South Australia and set up an elite training program for local players who were critical to Adelaide's early AFLW success.

Penny Cula-Reid, Kate McCarthy and Katie Loynes also provided parts of the boots presented to Emily Bates.

A quote from Narelle Smith is featured in one pair of the boots. Picture: AFL Photos

I got told... footy wasn't for girls. That only made me want to prove them wrong.

- Kara Antonio

Inaugural Fremantle captain Kara Antonio retired from the AFLW last year and has now started on the coaching pathway, but still recalls how she turned misplaced commentary into extra motivation.  

Kirby Bentley, Helen Lambert and Sal Rees also donated parts of the boots gifted to Ally Anderson.

A quote from Kara Antonio is emblazoned on one pair of the boots. Picture: Supplied

I always looked up to male players growing up. Now I look up to you.

- Sam Virgo

Sam Virgo led the way as an attacking defender for Brisbane and Gold Coast in the AFLW but had to look to the men's competitions for her own idols.

Karen Russell, Kerry Saunders and Melinda Hyland contributed the other parts of the boots given to Ashleigh Brazill.

Be the AFLW role model I never had.

- Shannon McFerran

Shannon McFerran has the perspective of someone who has beaten off a brain tumour when looking at the progress the women's game has already made as she focuses on where it is heading next.

Chelsea Randall and Bob Hampson also contributed to the fifth pair of boots that will be awarded to a player at this year's W Awards.

The five pairs of boots were designed and created by artisan shoemaker Matea Gluščević from Naarm/Melbourne.

While the boots tell the tales of the trailblazers that paved the way for women's football, further stories are still to be written by all the current and future players prepared to 'Keep Walking Boldly'.

This article was created in partnership with Johnnie Walker as part of their 'Keep Walking' philosophy. Keep Walking promotes progress and is a celebration of those who dare to walk beyond the well-trodden path, to help make life richer for us all.