MasterChef star has an appetite for AFL

Alana Low cooks up a storm with Bisbane Lion Matthew Leuenberger as part of AFL Women’s Week

Before finding fame as a finalist on the 2011 series of MasterChef, AFL Queensland’s new Women’s Football Ambassador Alana Lowe made a quite a name for herself on the football field.

As part of our AFL Women’s Week celebrations we spoke to the state representative and 4 time All-Australian player about footy, food and the future of women in the AFL.

You’ve just been announced as AFL Queensland’s new Women’s Football Ambassador. How did you first get involved in AFL?
Firstly, I must say that I am really excited to be the AFL Queensland’s new Women’s Football Ambassador and look forward to the role.  Aussie Rules has always been a part of my life, since day one to be honest.  I was born and bred in Victoria into an AFL crazy family where most weekends were spent yelling at the TV. 
In the early 2000s, when I moved to Canberra for University, I discovered that women actually played Aussie Rules competitively and I signed up straight away. 
I have always played sports, but I loved the excitement and quick pace of the game and worked hard on my kicking and hand balling skills.  I really enjoyed training and playing footy and was fortunate enough to Captain my team.

Your time as a player reaped you many rewards, being selected four times as an All Australian must have been a highlight?
I couldn’t believe it when my name was read out at the 2002 National Championships in Sydney. Having only played Aussie Rules for six months with still so much to learn about the game, it was a real highlight and huge honour to be selected in the All Australian side for the first time.  I had always dreamed of having the opportunity to represent my country and I was fortunate to do this for 4 years. These days the All Australian women’s team tours and plays Ireland which shows how far the women’s game has come along.

As a female playing Ruck, what were the challenges you faced in your position? Any top tips for up and coming female players?
I certainly wasn’t the biggest ruckman going around so I needed to really use my body position well in the ruck and learn to jump with a leading knee.  As a ruckman, you take on a lot of the control of the play of the ball.  You need to use your head and read the play.

What were the things you enjoyed most about playing  AFL?
Definitely the camaraderie!  When I moved to Canberra I was new to town and after the first training session I had made 20 new friends.  I loved pushing my body to the limit and seeing what I could achieve but most of all I loved taking a screamer!

Everyone knows you as one of the standout cooks from MasterChef Australia 2011, what was the special dish you used to prepare prior to a big match?
I had a routine every Saturday (women’s games were at 10am before the men’s reserves), so I would be up at 7am and eating a big bowl of cereal and toast – nothing gourmet, after all I about to run around for 2 hours!  The night before was a different story… I would devour a hearty meal, generally spaghetti with pancetta and pine nuts.

Who inspires you and why?
My family has always inspired me.  My parents have supported me in every decision I have ever made and have given me the opportunity to do whatever I wanted with my life, they have never held me back from anything.  Real inspiration is drawn from those that you are surrounded by daily.

The AFL is celebrating Women’s Round with a focus on leadership this year. Did you have a female mentor when you were playing?
One woman who has been a real role model and champion of women’s footy is Debbie Lee from VWAFL.  Just this year she played her 250 Aussie Rules game and has had a playing career over 20 years which is exceptional.

What is the most important attribute in a leader?
A true leader is instinctive and decisive and someone that the whole team rallies behind.

What do you hope to achieve in your new ambassador role?
These days I have hung up the boots (although every time I watch a game I still get that urge to have a kick), so I want to do all I can to support the game and encourage as many young girls and women to get involved.  Whether they play, coach and umpire or play equally important roles behind the scenes, their contribution to the game should be acknowledged.

Where do you see Women’s Football in Queensland in ten years time?
Women’s football has come a long way in the last 10 years and I’m sure it will continue to climb the ladder. In 10 years from now, I would love to see women’s Football in Queensland grow to such size that women of all ages would be participating in Auskick right through to 1st grade women’s competitions.  It would be great to see the women’s leagues develop into a national competition and games to be played as curtain raisers for the AFL at grounds all around the country.

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