A PERMANENT move to Adelaide from Darwin has helped Danielle Ponter in her quest to spend more time in the midfield.
After bursting onto the AFLW scene in 2019 at just 18 – a richly talented forward in a star-studded Adelaide line-up, the niece of Michael Long and cousin of Cyril Rioli – Ponter already has two premierships to her name and will play game No.50 this weekend.
"Game 50, it's surprising. Being 23, I didn't think I'd be in this position any time soon, I'm really grateful for it. I've got all four of my sisters and my mum and dad coming down, all my nieces and nephews, so it's going to be a crazy weekend, that's for sure," Ponter told afl.com.au.
"Before the move, and especially around COVID times, I was spending blocks here in Adelaide and would go back to Darwin now and then. In terms of work, I was working remotely, so I could do that as well, so that worked out really nicely for the couple of years I did that.
"But four years of flying in and out gets exhausting. I was missing the in-office environment at work and being around people and building those relationships. It's been great to have our (Ponter and her partner Nathaniel) own space to go back to after training and games."
Ponter is now working at the SANFL in a First Nations programs role alongside Marlon Motlop, as well as one day a week at the Crows alongside Jeremy Johncock in another First Nations role.
"Prior to this, I was working for an Aboriginal justice agency in Darwin, taking custody calls and giving legal advice and doing welfare checks on Indigenous people in custody," she said.
"It was an agency I rolled into straight out of high school. My older sister was working there at the time, and she was going into a pre-law course at university, so they needed someone to cover her.
"It was very challenging at times, but it was interesting and is something I'm passionate about, helping Indigenous people in any way I can, and that was an opportunity for me to work remotely and still play AFLW.
"I'm still helping Indigenous people now, but it's within the football industry and not in such sad, horrible environments. I'm helping to push the (participation) numbers, and in any way I can. It's been an awesome change for me, and I'm really excited to see where it could go to."
Her partner Nathaniel is just as crazy about football as Ponter, playing for Glenelg reserves earlier this year and now heading up to Darwin for the upcoming NTFL season.
Teammates Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard and midfield coach (and former teammate) Courtney Cramey have also been a big help in Ponter's quest for increased time in the middle.
"He's all footy, he's all fitness, and he's a good motivator for me and I wouldn't be in the position I am if I wasn't with him and his guidance in the off-season in Darwin," Ponter said.
"Over [previous] off-seasons, I'd go back to Darwin, and I wasn't surrounded by people who were at that (AFLW fitness) level or wanted to go out for a run – my family aren't crazy on fitness, they love having fish and chips picnics at the beach, they're pretty chill.
"Midfield was always something I wanted to roll into, but I obviously wasn't at the level that I needed to be at. It's always been the challenge of mine, building that aerobic capacity.
"I think with the move I've made down to Adelaide, and the access I have to the facilities all year round and being able to train with the girls in the off-season, that'll really be able to motivate me more into that headspace and fitness level."
Ponter took part in the first leg of Long's Long Walk this year.
Originally conducted in 2004, with Long walking from Melbourne to Canberra to help raise awareness about Indigenous issues and to meet with then-Prime Minister John Howard, Long re-walked the trek over the past few weeks in support of the Yes campaign for the upcoming Voice referendum.
"It's something that when he originally did it back in 2004, I would have been four. You do the Long Walk every Dreamtime at the 'G, and you reflect on what a special moment that (2004) would have been for him and the family," Ponter said.
"For him to do it again, there was no doubt that I wasn't going to be involved in it somehow. I flew over to Melbourne, did the first leg of the walk – I wish I could have done more, but we were rolling into round one that week, so I thought I should get back and get ready for that.
"With the referendum coming up, just really trying to drive that education into the girls as well, and give them as much information about it as they need, and to help spread awareness as to what the referendum will mean for my family and my community, and hopefully get that over the line.
"But it was a very special thing to be a part of, I think he's doing incredible stuff again and I'm grateful to be in a position to help drive that campaign and spread awareness."