Melanie Staunton in action during the Coates Talent League Girls match between Tasmania Devils and GWS Giants Academy at University of Tasmania Stadium in round one, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

WHILE surfing provides an escape for many AFLW and AFL players; few, if any, have pursued it competitively.

Enter New South Wales draft prospect Melanie Staunton, who last year won the Australian open women's longboard title as a 17-year-old.

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"I competed last year and won the Australian title for open women's longboard. That was something that went quite big last year as well, and I love it, absolutely love it. It's always been my happy place," Staunton told

"I surf on boards that are nine foot, so they're quite large in comparison to short boards. I've really enjoyed the culture and nature based around the sport. I never really got into the short boarding because it was quite competitive, and I didn't really like the atmosphere.

"I was lucky enough to be surrounded by great bunch of people down at Ulladulla, with the Mollymook longboarders, and I've loved it ever since.

"I'm definitely head in the game for football at the moment, and I'm loving it. Surfing is a really good outlet that will always be there for me. Who knows, might win a world title in a few years after my football career," she finished with a grin.


The south-coast native finished school last year, moving up to Sydney to live with her uncle and aunty in order to further her footy.

Staunton now plays with East Coast Eagles in the AFL Sydney competition, and is a member of Greater Western Sydney's Academy and a Giants supporter, but has nominated for the national pool in the upcoming draft on December 18.

She's coming to the end of a gap year with a casual job with an events company, giving time for a strong footy focus including winning the best-on-ground medal for the AFLW Academy in its match against an under-23 representative side.

Melanie Staunton poses with her best on ground medal after the match between the AFL Academy Girls and Under 23 All-Stars at Marvel Stadium on June 18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

A tenacious midfielder who loves winning the contested ball – much like her favourite, Alyce Parker – Staunton began her football journey with the Ulladulla Dockers.

"Growing up, I was jumping between heaps of different sports, between footy and Oztag, touch and surfing, all of that. Started playing under-9s at the Ulladulla Dockers with the blokes, because there were no female teams. I played under-9s, 11s and 13s.

"Then I got to under-15s and was told I wasn't allowed to play anymore (with the boys). I was pretty much ready to walk away from the sport, and just mainly focus on surfing.

"I was lucky enough to get dispensation to play in the senior comp down the road, so I played senior football (with Ulladulla at just 14)."

Staunton isn't a tall footballer, standing at 168cm, let alone at the age of 14 playing in an open age division, and she's grateful for the campaigning of a senior Ulladulla club member.

Melanie Staunton in action during the Coates Talent League Girls match between Tasmania Devils and GWS Giants Academy at UTAS Stadium in round one, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"I was really, really lucky – there's a coach from home, 'Kimbo' – that's her nickname, Kimberley Peat – I was pretty much nipping at her heels, 'let me play senior footy, let me play senior footy, let me play, let me play'," Staunton said.

"She's always told me, that growing up, she didn't have that same opportunity, so it was really hard, because there wasn't that pathway for her. For her, moving into managing and coaching the senior footy club, she didn't want that to happen to anyone else, so she put in everything she could to try and help me be able to play footy, which I'm forever grateful for.

"I loved it, I thrived off the challenge. I loved going out there, knowing I was the smallest, knowing I had nothing to me, but I knew I wasn't going to back down to the challenge.

"From day dot, when I started, I was really lucky to have that competitive feather in my cap. Yes, I did get squished a lot of the time, but I used my speed to my advantage and my fitness as well."

The NAB AFLW Draft will be broadcast on December 18 on and the AFL Live Official App.