A SENIOR premiership and a Rising Star award, South Australia’s Nikki Gore has already had a successful year on the field – and now she hopes she can capitalise off it when the AFL Women’s draft rolls around in a few months.
The talented South Adelaide midfielder headed into the eight-game season without too many expectations considering she had carried an injury through pre-season and had not had the ideal preparation for the Statewide Super Women’s League season. But putting that all behind her, Gore produced one of the top seasons by any player, let alone a first-year star, taking out the Breakthrough Player Award at the end of the short season.
“I definitely didn’t think I was going to do what I did in the SANFL season,” Gore said. “It was obviously women’s football and I was really pleased with how I performed during the season, especially since I was out for a fair bit of the pre-season with an injury. “So it was really good to come into the season and do some good consistent footy.”
The year brought about her favourite memory too, with Gore celebrating the premiership with her South Adelaide teammates after triumphing in the decider.
“It was pretty awesome to win a premiership in the Women’s SANFL, and in quite a tight game as well,” she said.
But how did Gore’s rise to the state’s Rising Star, key midfield contributor and AFL Women’s Academy member begin?
“I started in 2012 so when I was 11 years-old,” she said. “I played boys footy so watched a lot of footy growing up. “Ever since I was a little kiddo, I watched footy. “I really liked it and thought I’d give it a shot, and obviously I only knew about boys footy so I joined an all-boys team and then played one year with the boys at a club that wasn’t too inclusive and then moved on to a different club which was really inclusive, and played three years with the boys there and captained two of those years which was good.”
Gore said she loved the game and the team environment she thrives on – getting around her teammates in the good times and the bad. She has also become familiar with plenty of AFL Women’s players at the Adelaide Crows, having run around with the Northern Territory (NT) Thunder.
“I’ve been training with the VFLW at NT Thunder so I haven’t really played too many games,” she said. “(I’ve) just had a bit of a break for my body to recover and take the load off a bit. “But I’ve played one game leading up to [the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships], and played in the first round which was good.”
She said it was a memorable experience to run out with AFL Women’s premiership players, but also just to learn from their leadership on the track.
“It was an awesome experience to play with some of those players, get a run with them and they’re obviously some really good leaders in there and really brought my game up and it was good,” she said.
Coming back to face off against teenagers after playing against women was always going to be a benefit for Gore, who thrives on being at the coal face in the middle. She said she noticed the difference upon returning and said her battles with senior bodies had helped prepare her to be more influential at the stoppages.
“Obviously (there are) not as big bodies playing Under 18s level, women’s bodies are much bigger and bigger built and much stronger,” she said. “The movement of football is a bit cleaner as well, so playing in the SANFL was a really good lead-up to the Under 18 tournament and it’s really helped me in this tournament.”
Gore said she thought her defensive pressure and composure, as well as her game sense were among her strengths, while she made it clear that she was constantly striving to be the best she could be.
“I guess there’s a lot I can improve on,” she said. “There’s always something you can improve on, but left foot kicking and continuously getting out of packs and my game awareness and my body under in the midfield.”
Gore stepped up at the AFL Women’s Championships to be among Central Allies’ best players on multiple occasions and slotted into the midfield seamlessly. She said it was great to meet some of the Northern Territory’s top prospects,
“Fortunately for me I’ve met a few of them, so it’s been good to come up with them again,” she said. “But there’s obviously a few girls I didn’t know and you just gotta make sure you make the effort to get to know them, and get to know their strengths on the field and what their game is and use that in the game.” “It’s been good.”
Gore said the championships were a way of testing herself against the nation’s top teenage prospects and seeing how she fared in front of recruiters.
“The championships is a good experience to get exposed to talent people watching on and play some footy” she said. “Also (to) get to know all these other girls and playing against states is an awesome experience. “It’s always good to do your state proud and it’s been awesome.”
Her idol is local South Australian midfielder Kane Murphy, who she has followed in his footsteps as someone she could develop into, as well as Adelaide star Rory Sloane.
Looking ahead to the future, Gore has aspirations of becoming either a firefighter or a physical education teacher, but her true dream is that of an AFL Women’s player.
“Ever since I was a little kid in my first year of football I wanted to play AFL,” she said. “Obviously then there wasn’t an opportunity for Women’s AFL, but I kept at it and continued my love of football. “Then the AFLW got brought in, and I really just aspired to that.”