Women of AFL – Natalie Fletcher

Natalie Fletcher
PE Teacher at St Dympna’s School (Aspley)

What does your role involve? Teaching PE to all children from Prep to Year 7 including all carnivals and training preparations for these. I also organise interschool sport and coaching and help assist teachers in coaching where necessary in various sports.

 How long have you been involved in AFL?  Over 25 years right through watching my brothers play to teaching AFL skills as part of my PE program.

How did you first become involved in AFL? Boundary umpiring for my local country AFL club in Tasmania to stay fit at age 17. 

What is the greatest challenge you have faced in your role? Trying to change the attitude of Queenslanders that AFL is a great game to watch and play.

 What has been your greatest achievement/s? This year, the success of the Interschool Sports Teams, both the boys and girls won their grand final. Also the girls’ team had great success at the Brisbane Lions Cup.

Do you think being a woman helps you to bring a different perspective to your role and/or organisation? I feel it does.  My interest in AFL as a woman enables me to encourage girls especially to give the sport a go. Despite my interest, I did not have the same opportunities growing up.  Often the sport is seen as a boys sport, especially when it is competing against traditional girl sports. Any encouragement towards children being given the opportunity to participate in all aspects of AFL is going to benefit them.  Also parents are very open to chat to me about children’s successes and disappointments with the sport. They often ask my opinion not only as a coach but as a woman, on the role that AFL will play with their children participating in the game.  Often parents are ill-informed about the rule changes to allow the game to be safe for everyone.

What do you find most rewarding about your role in football? Seeing the surprise from the girls that they enjoy the game as much as I do and that they have the support from their parents.

What do hope to achieve in football? To keep inspiring children to play the game and to support children who wish to make representative teams.

What advice would you give to other women hoping to work (or working) in AFL?  AFL is such a great team sport for children to play which teaches them team work, fair play and lots of fun.  AFLQ has such a supportive network of people who are very happy to help develop the sport in your school.  Even if you do not know anything about the sport, there are people to help support you in developing AFL in your school. 

Who inspires you and why? Cathy Freeman.  To see the achievements that Cathy has left for us to marvel over is a big inspiration.  Having run against her as a teenager, it was a big thrill to see what she achieved not only as an Australian but as an Aboriginal woman. AFL also recognises the Aboriginal players and their culture. This is a great way to help teach children about the heritage of our country, through the players like Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin and Cyril Rioli.

Why do you think it is important to have women in football?
Women in football provide great role models to encourage children to play this wonderful game and become involved, especially for the girls.

What do you see in the future for women in football? I would like to see women taking on larger roles in coaching AFL and developing the skills of girls at a primary and then secondary level.  This will then give the girls the confidence to choose AFL as a sport to play in their teenage years. 

What is the most important attribute in a leader? The ability to see the strengths and weaknesses in all and to be able to further develop the person into a well rounded sportsperson who is given the opportunity to play to their strengths.

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