WHEN girls football returned to the Mornington Peninsula, Mount Martha’s Shelley Heath took up the love she had for the sport when she was a child. Since then, the running half-back/wing has been an important part of the Dandenong Stingrays line-up since coming into the team with its inception in the TAC Cup Girls last season.
“I started Auskick when I was about six and I stopped for a while,” Heath said. said. “Then I started back up in 2015 when the girls league down in Mornington started to come about which was really exciting.”
Heath said the social aspect of being a part of a football club, as well as the physicality on the field, were the key reasons she decided to forge a football career.
“I really love the tackling side of it all,” she said. “The physicality is one of the biggest things I enjoy and I just enjoy meeting new people and enjoy my teammates.”
Since joining the Stingrays, Heath said her game has come a long way thanks to the work by the coaches and staff at Dandenong.
“It’s (the Stingrays program is) really good,” she said. “I’ve been there for two years and I’ve just developed so much through that program, the coaches have been amazing. “The whole program has really helped me with my football.”
Her clear strength is her speed and endurance, which she said helps when she is running up and down a wing, mowing down opponents in strong tackles. She is still learning how to position herself around the field better, but is pleased with how she has developed thus far.
Having been working hard with Southern Saints on the track in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, Heath spoke of her desire to play seniors, a dream that will come true tomorrow at Skybus Stadium when the Saints face the unbeaten Northern Territory Thunder. Her dream is clear – getting drafted into the AFLW at some stage.
“The St Kilda VFL (Southern Saints) have picked me up and I’ve been training with them so hopefully I’m on the verge of getting a game with them which should be good,” she said. “After that if not getting drafted, just keep with St Kilda and hopefully get drafted there in 2020.”
The recent top 10 draftees Jacob Weitering and Hunter Clark, as well as Tom De Koning – who went at pick 30 last year – both hail from Heath’s junior club, affectionately known as the ‘Mounties’. She said the drafting of players she knew gave her inspiration for her own football journey.
“It’s kind of pushed me along thinking that I have a chance to get drafted this year which is exciting,” she said.
In fact, her favourite football memory comes from her time at the Mounties, kicking a goal in the grand final in 2017. Outside of football she is keen to become a physiotherapist and said the balance between football and school has been a challenge, but one she is willing to take up.
“Yeah Year 12 is pretty stressful, pretty big,” she said. “Especially with all the football around it. “But I’m keeping on top of things which is good.”
Heath said the stronger bodies at Southern Saints training had helped her confidence and she was hoping to put her best foot forward for Vic Country on the Gold Coast in a couple of weeks.
“It’s really good (training with the Saints),” she said. “I’ve learnt a heap through training and the girls are so much more confident with everything and the bigger bodies have really helped out my footy as well. “I just want to make the (Vic Country) team and just play as best as I can to get looked at, and that’s probably the biggest thing.”