Jemima Wrigley's journey from NSW to playing professional football
Jemima leading from the sidelines Photography: Darcy Allen
Jemima Wrigley, who grew up in New South Wales, where women's football never seemed like an achievable goal, always had to work hard to get to where she is now. In 2018, the AFL NSW/ACT Female Academy structure was launched, providing players with a regular elite football training opportunity and streamlining our talent pathway.
Jemima has always been a natural leader, being High-School Captain, the Captain of the Southern Power and being promoted to the Southern Saints leadership group in her first year at the club, showing her hard work has paid off.
The inside mid, who has explosive speed and a hard, uncompromising style of play, tackles hard and plays for her team to win the ball wherever she can and never shies away from putting her heart into the game.
Jemima laying a tackle Photography: Tony Vella
Jemima never thought she’d see herself playing AFL until age 14.
“I started playing footy when I was 14 through a school gala day. My friends and I thought it would be fun to try. I’d never really watched a game before, so there was a lot of learning during the games,” says Jemima.
After playing in her gala day, she was selected in a group of girls to travel to Wagga Wagga to try out for the Representative team. From there, she was chosen in the State side and travelled to Geelong to compete against the best.
“Safe to say I was well out of my depth, but I loved the experience”, stating she has been hooked ever since.
After being selected in the Representative side, her parents signed her up for her local club Southern Power AFC.
“From the time I entered the youth girls program to when I moved on to seniors, the number of girls who played absolutely boomed. It was great to see so many young girls picking AFL as their main sport, especially because just years before, it was unheard of in Sydney.”
In 2022, Jemima was selected to join the Sydney Swans AFLW in their first year in the league as a train on after playing in their Academy prior. When asked about her move to Melbourne and joining the Southern Saints, she said,
“The last six months at the Saints have been a great experience. It’s awesome to be in a semi-professional environment where everyone has similar goals and wants to work hard.”
Jemima winning the 2023 Coaches Award
Despite her love for football, Jemima always grew up playing sports, being part of the Australian under-16s OzTag team that won the Trans-Tasman Series against New Zealand in 2016 with her skills transitioning to AFL.
“I grew up in a Rugby League family, so I didn’t watch much football until my late teens. I’m a Sydney girl, so I go for the Swans!”
Moving from Sydney to Melbourne brought many uncertainties and sacrifices for Jemima, but being here and seeing the difference has undoubtedly paid off for her.
“From a club and league perspective, the resources are unreal. Having so many skilled people around to support you as a player makes it easy to focus on the game and play your role each week. In terms of the footy, it’s a huge step up; the game is quicker, and the teams are smarter. Players are stronger and more skilled. Challenging myself this year and playing against consistent competition has been great.”
When asked what she was most proud of in her football, she spoke about the values she holds in herself,
“I’m proud of my resilience and the dedication and commitment I have towards my footy career. I’ve sacrificed a bit and pushed myself out of my comfort zone to be where I am. I’m fortunate to have an amazing family and partner to support and believe in me.”
Jemima has many moments in her football career to be proud of. Being an accomplished leader, she states that being selected in the leadership group for the Southern Saints is right up there with one of the best.
“I was honoured to be selected in the leadership group this year. Coming down and not knowing too many people was a little daunting, but coming in and being welcomed by the group was great. I was proud to have impacted the playing group, pushing me to lead by example on and off the field this season.”
Jemima also came away with the Southern Saints Coaches Award in 2023 in show of all her hard work on and off the field.
We look forward to hearing many more stories of women coming through the ranks and being able to play a game they come to love at a professional level.
Written By Darcy Allen - Sandringham Football Club Media