There has been a fair bit of talk around the AFLW competition in recent weeks, from fixturing to broadcasting, but I can’t help but look on in awe at the progress we are making in the game for women everywhere.

Beyond what people are seeing on the TV screens, so much is happening at grassroots level.

As an ambassador for the game in Queensland, I see first hand the amount of participation numbers that are coming through registration forms.

For female footy to be where it is right now, in such a non-AFL dominated state like Queensland, speaks volumes to how Australia’s game has only gone from strength to strength.

I still remember after the inaugural AFLW season, heading back to my local footy club and seeing how many more created divisions there were in the league for females who had immediately shown an interest in playing footy.

We ended up actually having to create new teams, such was the demand to play with the Sherrin!

Emma Zielke AFLW

There is a girl in my division, an incredibly talented basketball player, who gave up her spot in the WNBA because she fell in the love with footy.

It’s stories like hers that blow my mind knowing the impact that is being made, not just across Queensland, but across the whole country.

As a kid, I was more of a supporter of rugby league; although never really thought I’d play it.

But I was really no different to any other boy or girl in Queensland; it was standard practice to wear a Brisbane Broncos jersey on a Friday night!

The only real women’s sport in Bundaberg at that time was soccer, so naturally I grew up wanting to be a Matilda.

I genuinely didn’t know what AFL was until I moved to Brisbane.

Emma Zielke AFLW

Playing soccer was the only real national pathway I saw.

It is a dream of all of the female footy players currently in the lower levels to make it to the AFLW, and I couldn’t be happier that they have a path to follow, one that wasn’t there for me.

The dream I feel for everyone would be to play the game, at the highest level, in a full-time capacity.

With my age, I know that dream won’t be achievable for me. But I desperately want to help blaze the pathway for the next generation of girls coming through.

Emma Zielke AFLW

The day we have full-time AFLW players, who are able to create careers through the game through play, is the day when our game would have truly made it.

The more resources poured into female footy, the better athletes we will be.

I can share from my experience, I hadn’t really been in the gym before I started playing in the AFLW league.

I didn’t really know much about fitness, nutrition, anything like that. I wasn’t educated around that; footy was just a bit of fun.

Emma Zielke AFLW

The girls coming through now, are starting gym programs from 14 and probably younger.

So when they do enter into the AFL system, they do so with four or five years of gym work, fitness, nutrition and education all geared towards helping them become an elite athlete.

It is simply going to take time, but we are moving in the right direction.

Keep the patience.