“What the heck is this sport?” I thought to myself as I was browsing through the options on ESPN. Its not rugby, its not soccer, its not… like anything I’ve ever seen.

Back in 2009 my eyes were opened to the world of Aussie Rules thanks to the short 2 year deal that was signed with ESPN.

From the moment I watched it I knew that it was my ideal sport. I had always wanted to play a full tackle sport, that combined with the high flying catches and magnificent goals made it my personal dream to play.

My love of all sports stemmed early while watching my parents play sports of their own as I was growing up.

Their competitive nature (especially my Dad’s) must have worn off on me because everything I did was a competition, from memorizing the most verses at church groups to being the best in school at every sport possible.

Gym class was simply a competition to be better than all the boys at everything, which, I generally was.

This competitive nature had its downfalls though. When one of my friends told me that she didn’t want to room with me during a summer basketball camp because she was afraid I would be too intense and that it wouldn’t be fun, I had to adjust.

I learned to channel my competitiveness internally and externally became an encouraging teammate.

This has served me well in many a game situation when negative comments would have dragged the team down further while the” never give up never die” positive attitude has seen its fair share of comebacks.

My competitiveness took me to Colorado School of Mines, a top engineering school,  to play soccer. By the end of my four years there the team had gone from being ranked 5th in our region to being ranked within the top 10 in the nation.

During that time is when I learned about footy but due to the nature of my soccer scholarship I was unable to play other sports for fear of injury.

In the years after college I played every sport I could including ultimate Frisbee, volleyball, basketball, and  soccer.

In 2018 I fulfilled my dream of playing a full contact sport by playing a season of rugby and earning rookie of the year. That same year I discovered there was a women’s footy club in my city and I joined the Arizona Hawks as fast as possible.

Since joining (a year ago today as I write this) my competitiveness has taken me all around the country to play in as many footy games as possible.

Traveling to both California and New York (over 4,000 kilometers apart) to take part in women’s footy. I have spent hours working on my kicking form, bruising the top of my foot multiple times due to the long sessions with my husband.

I have never missed a training and push myself harder in the gym and on the track than I ever have in my life so that I can take my footy game to the next level.

I watched almost every game of this last AFLW season so that I can see how the sport is played by the best in the world.

I am excited to learn more about this sport while I am in Melbourne and can’t wait to train with women that will push me to become better.

Thank you Australia for creating a sport so uniquely its own that you can’t even describe it in words. It’s not rugby and it’s not soccer. You have to play it to experience the depth of the game and I aim to do that at the highest level I can.

Best, Dani Marshall.