Jo calls time on fields of her glory

NEXT month’s AFL women’s national championships in Cairns will be the sixth and last for local stalwart Jo Butland.

The 36-year-old said it was a no-brainer to call it a day on the field she has made her own for more than a decade.

The dual international is a four-time All Australian and eight-time AFL Cairns Women’s premiership winner.

But it all started on the soccer field with Butland a goalkeeper in the Matildas squad between 1997 and 2001.

The sports fanatic said with the next national titles another two years down the track she could safely say the Cairns carnival, which begins on June 17, would be her last in maroon.

“I sort of contemplated giving it away two years ago but when I found out it’d be in Cairns it was a no-brainer to put the effort it and give it up after that,” she said.

She said the average punter underrated the rigors the women put themselves through to compete at the national level, and that it had started to take its toll.

“It’s pretty hard and people don’t realise that. Especially being based up here you’ve basically got to train by yourself,” she said.

“I am more of a teacher at local level, but every step up in quality you take you’re putting your body on the line that little bit more.”

Butland has been one of the key figures in the growth of women’s AFL in the region and will be joined by at least eight other Cairns members in the state team.

The AFL hopes to implement a nationwide women’s league before 2020 and although Butland believes she has missed the boat as a player, she knows her footy smarts could still be employed.

“I am probably 10 years too late for that, but maybe as a coach,” she said.

“They are hoping to put it up alongside the W-League in its stature, which is quite strong, and there’s no reason that’s not achievable.”

With Butland at the helm North Cairns has been near-unstoppable in recent years and, while she is confident of continuing to play at that level, hopes to leave a legacy of sorts.

“I guess we showed the girls that the footy in north Queensland is good quality and we can produce good players.

Hopefully I’ve inspired a few of those girls to give it a real crack.”

From AFL Cairns website

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