Picture this… twenty boys and one girl take the field at recess, with two boys out the front acting as captains ready to pick teams for the day. I’m that one girl.

Rock, paper, scissors gives one of the boys the power to take first pick. “JENNA”, he yells.

It was always so satisfying to be picked first before the rest of the boys as they gave me smug looks and I smiled cheekily and proudly.

This is where I developed my competitiveness, love for sport and (unknowingly) my career ultimately began.

From the ripe age of two I had sports balls at my feet and in my hands. Whatever I could get my hands on I was playing with.

My life has revolved around soccer with a large influence coming from my Dad, a senior legend at his local country club in Mount Gambier.

I had the passion for all sports but particularly latched onto AFL, soccer and cricket.

Fast forward to the present, and I am lucky enough to be competing in two of those sports at the highest level.

Like many dual-code athletes, juggling two elite sports is difficult, especially when the seasons conflict with each other in some ways. Soccer always took precedence over other sports as I grew up.

As there were already pathways and leagues set up, I always had something to inspire me to work towards.

I never played a full season of AFL, only the odd game here or there for club, a few Youth Championship representations with South Australia, a game for Queensland and an exhibition match with the Brisbane Lions, but I always had an intense passion for the game and was blessed with natural ability.

AFL for me had always taken the back seat.

Until, when in 2016, I heard that the AFLW would be fast tracked from 2020 to begin in 2017.

I sat excitedly in my lounge room in Iceland (where at the time I was playing soccer for Stjarnan FC in their top women’s league) ready to relish this opportunity if it presented.

I’d made the connection through some people I know and was starting to see the prospect of playing in this new league for the Adelaide Crows as a real possibility.

For the 2016/17 W-League season I was contracted to Canberra United. It was during the pre-season that I was invited to the inaugural AFLW draft and it was then that I found out I was drafted to the Adelaide Crows with their third pick, a moment I will forever cherish.

I thoroughly enjoyed my second season with CU and managed to keep focussed on soccer despite the fact that back in Adelaide my Crows teammates began their preseason.

As the W-League season finished, I packed up my house and got back to Adelaide in two days to join my new teammates and try to catch up on building connections, the training and skill acquisition.  

This was exciting but very difficult knowing how much I had missed.

I got my first start just 4 days later and loved my AFLW debut – there was a spine tingling buzz as I ran onto the ground for the first time wearing an Adelaide Crows Jumper and kicked my first goal.

That season ultimately ended the best way possible, becoming the Inaugural AFLW Premiers.

A piece of history nobody can ever take away from us and that will forever be remembered.

During 2018 and after season 1 of the AFLW, I headed back overseas, this time to play soccer in Norway.  

After negotiation, I continued my W-league journey but moved back home to re-join Adelaide United.

By doing this I was able to have more opportunities to be involved in the AFLW preseason as well as focus on soccer.

Both clubs were fully committed to helping me keep my dream alive and do what I do best in both my chosen fields.

Even though soccer training was four to five nights a week plus a weekend game, the AFLW competition was expected to raise in standard in season two and, to avoid being left behind, I still had to complete a pre-season with the Adelaide Football Club which was very demanding.

I rarely had an ‘off’ day over those three months leading into the second AFLW season which tested the capacity of my mental and physical strength. 

Some days were good, some not so much. I am lucky enough to have a great support network of family and friends around me to help me get through it.

For me, seeing how much the AFLW is making a difference to the upcoming generation of young girls and inspiring them to have a dream that can now become a reality, is amazing.

I just can’t really put it into words. Having the ability to make a positive affect of a young girl’s life just with your presence or with advice is really powerful.

You don’t realise it until you start going out to grassroots footy and soccer clubs, seeing the reaction you get from some of those young athletes who are aspiring to now do what we do, because of the path that’s now established for them.

I absolutely love it and that’s why I now coach. I like giving back, and I love getting to play a role in their development.

As I lightly touched on before, I’ve had experience playing soccer overseas and have been abroad for the last two winters playing in Europe.

Instead of going away this year, I decided to stay here in Adelaide, which will give me more exposure to footy whilst playing local soccer.

I’m looking forward to seeing how I can use the full season to my advantage, coming into pre-season for AFLW 2019.

I’m so grateful that every club that I’ve been with has been really supportive and accommodating of the other sport. 

I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I didn’t have the cooperation of the Crows, Adelaide United, and Canberra United (in the first year).

Due to the high demand of playing these two sports that sit where they do on the calendar, it will get hard to keep up both and unfortunately there will be a day that I need to choose one.

For now though, I’m not quite ready to make that decision and will cross that bridge when I get to it.