Marlo Brack was a six-year-old girl playing Under 7’s football with the boys at Moorooka. She played until she was 12 and was told girls could no longer play. She did some coaching and umpiring and helped run some junior clinics before walking away from the game. It was the normal thing back in the 1980s and ‘90s.
But Marlo was anything but ’normal’. And going on 20 years later, when she won the QAFL Women’s League Best & Fairest Medal for the second year in a row in 2005, she was acclaimed “the first champion’’ of women’s football in Queensland.
She was a pioneer of the women’s game, an outstanding player and later an outstanding coach. At times in retirement she wishes she could start all over again, but is rightfully content in the knowledge that she and others like her paved the way for the explosion of women’s football in the 2020’s.
At 48 she’s still plays the odd master’s game back in the red and white of the Roosters at Alexander Park, Moorooka. Back where it all began as a six-year-old, after she’d moved from Victoria with parents John and Margaret and older sisters Karen and Nicole.
It was a sporting family and John played at Moorooka. Wherever the family went there was a football. Marlo would kick it with anyone and everyone. “It’s just what I did,” she recalls.
But when the football doors closed on her she turned to basketball. Not until a chance conversation with a friend in 1998 did she learn there was women’s football being played at Alexandra Hills. At 24 she was back in football. “Initially there were four teams, then six, then 12, and then it was back to six. It was all a bit up and down but at least we were playing,” she said.
Dee McConnell, from Redland, had been the early driving force, and things took off after Julia Price, a former Australian women’s Test cricketer, was employed by the League in a development role, and Carla Hardy was appointed competition manager.
In May 2001 a lighting premiership was played at Alexandra Hills with teams from Redland, Surfers Paradise, Glasshouse-Hinterland, Burleigh and the host club. A four-team home-and-away competition followed, with Redland the inaugural premiers after they beat Alexandra Hills in the Grand Final. Brack and teammate Mica Cubis were the stars of the first season with Redland’s Shelley Gale and Billy Schloss. She played in an exhibition match at halftime in the QAFL grand final at Coorparoo.
But in 2002 numbers were short at Redland and she moved to the Logan Cobras, where she became the dominant force in the competition and the Cobras became the powerhouse club. They won five premierships in a row in 2006-07-08-09-10. She played a starring role in the first two and was playing coach in the next three and won the League Medal in 2004-05-09. How many games did she play? She’s not sure, in those days they weren’t recorded.
She was a real pocket-rocket. All of 163cm, she was always at the bottom the packs. “You’ve got to play to your strengths,” she said with a laugh. But when she had the Sherrin she was smart and skilful. Very. Always a leader of her team.
Marlo saw the emergence of Cobras teammates Aasta O’Connor and Katie Brennan and admits she was “like a proud parent” as they developed into two of the all-time greats.
If there was a favorite among the five Logan flags it was the last one after a few players had left. “Everyone said we had lost our strong players so it was very satisfying to win without them. I always like to think it’s about the team, not any one individual,” she said.
Marlo played a key role, too, in the formal establishment of the Queensland women’s team, fully endorsed by the QAFL in 2003, after there had been regular unofficial interstate matches from the early 1990s. She was a playing assistant-coach of the Maroons at the first national carnival in Darwin in 2003 and later coach the Queensland side at the 2007 carnival in Canberra.
In football retirement she had four years living in Townsville but is back in Brisbane working with Key Assets, a non-Government, not-for-profit organisation that provides foster care, family support and disability support services to young children and their families across Australia.
Married in 2022, she was happy to admit she cried when sharing news of her Hall of Fame induction with wife ‘Jools’. It’s a cross-code relationship. ‘Jools’ is a rugby league fan and wears the horse costume at Suncorp Stadium as the Broncos mascot in the NRL. But Marlo’s true colors came out recently when she was caught on camera at the league watching the AFL on her phone. Once an AFL girl always an AFL girl. And one of the very best.