It’s really funny how life goes sometimes.

I still remember being 13 years old, and having to say goodbye to McKenzie Dowrick for the last time as my family was moving to the Gold Coast.

I don’t think either of us have ever cried so much since that day. We were a mess. I didn’t want to leave her or my home.

Honestly, I never thought I’d see her again. I thought our friendship would stop there and then. I mean, you can’t be any further away from Perth than moving to the Gold Coast.

And you have to remember, at that time, it wasn’t like it is today where everyone can still stay so connected through social media.

We had known each other since Grade 3 and had played footy together since we were eight years old.

But as life would go, the game of football would bring us together again.

2 years after we both said our goodbyes, we made our respective state teams for Under 16s – McKenzie played for Western Australia and I played for Queensland.

I remember the excitement race over my body when I spotted her running out with her team. When we first saw each other at that National Carnival, we couldn’t help but make a big deal of it. We embraced each other with a huge hug and lots of giggles. The thought of being able to see my best friend through AFL made me so happy.

From there, our friendship ignited and every year after that it almost added extra motivation for us to make the carnival so that we could both see each other!

When I would travel back to Western Australia for holidays with my family, I’d go and spend a week with her and hang out with her family because I basically grew up at her house alongside her brother and little sister.

In many ways, they both felt like my own brother and sister, and that’s the same for her parents… they became like guardians to me and I get along with all their cousins, aunties and uncles.

We spent five years living in different states and then sort of the middle of last year McKenzie came over to Queensland, she played her last year of state footy with the Under 18s.

I asked McKenzie if she wanted to stay for a couple of days extra after the carnival just so we could hang out and I could show her the Gold Coast and where I was living.

She ended up staying and loved it! I took her to all my favourite places and I asked, “would you ever live here?” She was like, “heck yeah, I’d love it.” I followed on from that and joked, “You should nominate for Queensland and try and play for the Brisbane Lions haha.”

She loved the idea and we kind of joked about it but it didn’t become a reality until I mentioned something to my Lions coach Craig Starcevich. He actually thought about it then the ball sort of got rolling from there.

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She flew over to Brisbane with her family and they met Craig and Bree, Lions AFLW CEO. Mckenzie felt comfortable and her family was impressed with Queensland and the Lions.

While ‘Kenz’ is on her way to play for the new West Coast franchise now, the biggest motivation for her being in Queensland in the first place was also having me over here. Because she was wanted by other Victorian clubs and as well as Fremantle, but I wanted her to come to the Lions! I think there was even talks of GWS wanting to draft her when they found out she was looking to move interstate.

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I think the biggest thing for her though was moving away from her family and living out of home, but having me living in Queensland living with her was probably the best thing that could have happened.

It was funny waking up in the morning and getting out of bed, going to make brekky and Kenz is already in the kitchen making herself bacon and eggs, sometimes I forget that it’s actually a reality.

We work together as well – I got her a job where I work, so we’ll go work together and train together, it’s like we’re with each other 24/7 but we don’t get sick of each other. It’s funny, we don’t argue, we always joke around and we have a very good sense of humour – it’s a very light friendship, it’s not demanding or anything, I think we’re very lucky to have each other.

It’s super special as well because footy was something that brought us together and footy was something that separated us.

Now we’ve played four games of AFLW with each other. Watching her debut was super special for me, and then going back home to WA to play in front of our family was super special for the both of us. We would just look at each other and go wow, I can’t believe this is happening.

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I remember when I first started playing, my Mum’s cousin Darren Glass was the captain of West Coast and I loved watching the Eagles.

And when McKenzie and I started playing in 2008, I knew that I wanted to be the first girl to play for West Coast Eagles and didn’t really understand there was any difference between girls and boys.

I didn’t know that a girl couldn’t play in the AFL, as McKenzie and I were playing in the boys team at school. I just assumed that if a girl was good enough, they would be able to play in the AFL.

For so long it was my goal to be the first girl to play in the AFL, and then when I was 13, turning 14, we were told that this was going to be our last year and that we weren’t going to be able to play with the boys anymore.

We were devastated. The club were concerned that it was going to get too physical and we weren’t able to be able to keep it up.

I hated hearing that because I didn’t want to be told no because I was a girl and being told no in general is pretty devastating – I almost felt discriminated because I was a girl, and my joy of playing the game was being dictated by others simply because they felt that a girl couldn’t compete against other guys.

Of course, I understood the reasoning and Mum was certainly of the view that it was starting to get too rough, so I could understand the decision – I just didn’t like it, and it was difficult to accept.

Because McKenzie and I were certainly up for the fight – we were holding our spot in the team and we were earning the respect of the boys because we were keeping other boys from getting into the team.

McKenzie and I used to get laughed at when we’d go play with the boys every Saturday morning; the guys on the other team would smirk and snicker under their breaths. They didn’t respect us.

You could imagine their surprise when McKenzie won a league best and fairest and I won the club best and fairest. It wasn’t until then that we actually started getting recognition from the competition.

The guys in our team loved it and they respected us because we would attack the footy twice as hard as them.  We had to. We had to earn that right to be out on the field each week and our coach said to us, ‘You’re not just going to play just cause we feel bad for you, you’re going to earn your spot’ and that’s probably what made us work so hard even after we jumped into girls footy.

We both knew that we had something special and we knew that we wanted to play in the elite level.

While I am disappointed that we will no longer be teammates, or housemates for that matter, the fact that we’re both where we are today, doing exactly what we dreamed of, is truly something special.