AFLW star Nicole Callinan is living proof that those who never give up can achieve their dreams.
In a presentation at Buckley House, the Western Bulldogs midfielder urged an excited group of Year 5 and 6 students to stay true to themselves and lead by example.
Nicole, 34, revealed that she missed out on the Victorian women’s football team several times while her brother, Ben, had his sights set on becoming a fireman. After several setbacks and lots of mutual support, both achieved their goals in 2015.
Last year, Nicole went one better when she was named in the leadership group of the Western Bulldogs side for its historic first AFLW season. She told the students they should never to give up on their dreams, whatever they may be, and not be afraid to use their support network as she and Ben did.
“Every opportunity that I get I’ve taken it,” she told them.
When Nicole grew up in Greensborough there were no junior girls’ teams, so she concentrated on cricket until playing football as an adult. The remedial massage therapist joined the Darebin Falcons in the VWFL in 2012 and played in their 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 premiership sides.
Despite that success, AFLW has taken things up a notch. Nicole was blown away when she played in front of more than 10,000 people at Whitten Oval in the Bulldogs’ first game against Fremantle – a 32-point win.
“It’s an incredible moment that I’ll cherish forever,” she says. “What we were all amazed by was the crowd.”
Addressing school students as a genuine AFL star was a dream come true for Nicole. The kids’ reaction showed that she and her fellow footy pioneers are already having an impact. Students enthusiastically fired questions at her and plenty of girls said they played or wanted to play footy and it was a long line for autographs at the end.
“That’s what’s exciting – just seeing the buzz and enthusiasm of the kids,” Nicole says. “I felt like a rock star at one stage.”