ADELAIDE utility Sally Riley might be a teacher, but she’s also a student of AFL history and fully aware she’s part of a story that will be written about for years to come.
The versatile Riley is one of nine Northern Territory-based players on the Adelaide list. Last weekend she kicked the first goal in the NAB AFL Women’s competition match to be played in Darwin.
“It was an historic moment for Darwin and the NT,” the 26-year-old Riley said this week during a break between lessons.
“The amount of support the community and the government have put into our team, and AFLW in general, is incredible. People are following the competition and are really interested in it.”
Unfortunately for Riley and her local fan-base at TIO Stadium, the Crows failed to secure a Grand Final berth after losing to Melbourne by two points.
Adelaide travels to Melbourne for Sunday’s final round match against Collingwood with the prize of a Grand Final spot against the Brisbane Lions as the reward on offer.
Melbourne will be chasing the same prize when it hosts Fremantle on Saturday. If they both win, percentage will be the deciding factor.
“I hadn’t dreamt of playing football…until it was a realistic goal when the [women’s] league was announced. Now the thought of making the Grand Final is amazing. [Playing in this competition] keeps exceeding my expectations,” she said.
Riley grew up in Ballarat, north-west of Melbourne, playing netball, but was always a big footy fan, following Essendon in the AFL.
A move to the Northern Territory for a teaching job opened up an opportunity to play footy with Tracy Village in Darwin. The suburb gets its name from the village of tents and temporary buildings that sprung up to house reconstruction workers after Cyclone Tracy flattened Darwin in 1974.
“I came here five years ago. In the end I’m here because of the football and the opportunity that presented,” she said.
“I can live at home, keep my normal life and play at the elite level, so for the Northern Territory (to have that relationship with Adelaide) is massive.
“A lot of the junior ranks and parents are loving the fact there is now a pathway for their daughters.”