Rapid rise for Canadian AFL convert

By Beth Newman

When Chantal Beaudin first came to Australia, she had seen just one game of AFL.

Two and a half years later, she is on the cusp of representing her home nation, Canada in the sport, is playing for UQ in the QWAFL and working as a sports physiotherapist for teams including the Gold Coast SUNS.

It was her ambition to break into sports physiotherapy in a professional environment which brought her to Australia, and a growing love of AFL which has kept her here.

“When I first got here and they stuck me in to do NEAFL with Redland, I had no idea what was going on,” she said.

“I had the other physio sitting with me explaining me the game as I was doing it.”

Beaudin has since taken up the sport, with her hard-nosed attack on the footy catching the eyes of the Canadian scouts ahead of the International Cup, something she could not have imagined when she started playing.

“I hadn’t really looked much into it because I was quite new to the sport and this was just my first year playing – I hadn’t thought that I might be able to pull up my game that much,” she said.

“Most people don’t really know what the sport is, so when I tell people I get to play for Canada for this sport called Aussie Rules, they’re going, “What?’.”

Canada will be fielding two teams in the Cup, with Beaudin an emergency for their primary team, but is certain to line up for their development side in the competition.

Watching from the sidelines certainly eased her transition into the game, but Beaudin said she could not have imagined what it would be like to play until she actually did.

“It’s so much harder than it looks. The boys make it look so easy, but it’s definitely not.”

“It’s been huge because when I came and started playing I already knew the rules, I already knew the tactical play of the game,” she said. 

“Every two or three days, there’s a game that I’m watching or playing, so I was able to learn the movement of the game.”

Beaudin is an accomplished athlete in her own right, having played representative soccer in Canada as well playing volleyball and doing athletics in high school, but said nothing really compared to AFL.

“It’s such a different sport. I’ve never done contact sports in my life, so it was really different.

“I don’t actually mind the contact all that much, except the next morning I wake up and my body feels like I’ve hit a fridge,” she laughed.

One of the biggest challenges has been the unique skill set required for AFL, particularly kicking.

“We learn to kick with two hands when we’re starting off, so I’m just starting off and I didn’t really realise that people use one hand.

“So I got paid out for that one.”

In her role with the Queensland U16 team, Beaudin has found some handy mentors to help improve her foot skills.

“I’ve actually got a few friends that are helping me – some friends who have played at quite a high level will come down and have kicks with me…and then some of the coaches. It’s fantastic,” she said.

“So I get lots of feedback on how to do the different skills.”

Beaudin works with rugby union and AFL teams, but says working with the SUNS has given her a real glimpse in to the elite environment, which is her ultimate ambition.

“To see their skills and these boys train every couple of days and the level of professionalism in the sport is really remarkable,” she said.

“Compared to some of the other sports that are around, AFL’s really got everything to the tee, really.”

The International Cup kicks off on August 9, with the women’s grand final to be played on Sunday, August 23 at Punt Rd Oval.

Twitter: @bethknewman

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