The skills Amanda Farrugia employs to get her students engaged are proving invaluable in her new role as captain of the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants Women’s AFL squad.
Amanda’s first round game took place on 4 February in Adelaide and her principal from Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta went along to support her.
“The principal and all the staff at the school have been fantastic, supporting me every step of the way,” Amanda said.
OLMC is familiar turf for Amanda; she actually studied there and returned after university.
“I did my second prac back at OLMC, and then a maternity leave position came up. The following year I got a permanent role.”
Returning to the school as a PDHPE teacher in 2007, Amanda said there were at least a dozen teachers still on staff from when she was a student.
“In the back of my mind they’re still ‘sir and ‘miss’ which is a bit strange, but I’m accustomed to it now.”
AFL informs a lot of Amanda’s teaching. It’s not familiar territory to the staff, families and students in Parramatta, a rugby league stronghold with the Leagues Club literally across the street.
But Amanda said interest is rising and the girls are asking more questions all the time.
“A lot of the families don’t think of AFL as a girl’s sport. We have had the coaches from GWS coming out every year doing a unit with Year 10 and the girls love it.
“I use my experience for all the case studies and assessments that the girls do. In Year 12 PE class the work we do on nutrition or training techniques and the practical responses is all from my AFL experience.
“I don’t think that’s a bad thing for them to be getting the most up to date and authentic information.”
The leadership and communication skills she has developed as a teacher have helped Amanda in her captaincy.
“You need to engage a group and get them to buy into what you’re saying and get behind the organisation and its values, it’s the same thing as being in front of a class.
“I would encourage any parents wanting to get their kids into a sport that encourages leadership, communication and team building to consider AFL.”
Amanda loves the more varied skills of tackling, kicking and catching needed for AFL compared to some other sports and said many girls love the contact element of the game.
“It’s an open field that gives you space to express your individuality.”
Amanda joined the IEU for professional support, and she is also a member of the AFL Players Association (AFL PA), which represents players in a similar way to a trade union. The AFL PA has done some work on improving women’s pay.
The women’s game is fledging and Amanda said the girls were just happy to be given an opportunity.
“It is semi professional and teaching does work in well with that. I can get to evening training fairly easily and all the games are on weekends.
“The school has been very flexible about any arrangement I need to make. The season is quite short, all over by March.
“It’s all new and exciting and I can’t wait to see how it goes.”