Our footy warriors

Bendigo pair make their mark in Northern Territory league

THEY teamed up to help Bendigo Thunder win its first premiership in 2012, now Angela Foley and Bree Martin are flying high for another football powerhouse.

The pair moved to Darwin a year ago and have joined the mighty Waratah Warriors, a club that has dominated the Northern Territory Football League women’s competition in recent years and is this season eyeing its third grand final win in succession.

With their last home and away game to be played against the Darwin Buffaloes this Sunday, Waratah sits on top of the ladder with 15 wins, one loss and one washout. Their biggest victory was by 202 points over the scoreless Southern Districts in round six.

When she’s not pulling on her footy boots and lining up as a utility for the ‘Tahs, Foley, 25, is a PE teacher at the Essington International School.

Forward pocket player Martin, 31, works as a dental nurse.

They spoke to Women in Sport recently about life and sport in their new home city.

When did you move to Darwin and what prompted the decision? 

Martin: I travelled around four years ago and worked and lived here for six months. I loved everything about Darwin and knew I would be back one day.

Foley: We moved late in January 2013. I travelled around Australia when I was eight with my family and grandparents and loved it up here - the weather and the crocodiles (I find them fascinating). So when Bree put the idea in my head, it was hard to say no. 

I found it hard playing in the heat at the beginning. You lose about 3-4kg through sweat every game. - Angela Foley

How have you found the transition to the tropical climate? 

Foley: If you are talking footy, I found it hard playing in the heat at the beginning. You lose about 3-4kg through sweat every game. But I’m getting used to it.   

Martin: We are going through the wet season, so it’s humid and people are begging for it to rain to get a cool change. I love the hot weather, but it did take a bit to get used to.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of living in Darwin?

Foley: The weather and the relaxed people and atmosphere. You feel like you are on an extended holiday every day of the week. I also have scored a pretty good job and have been on many school camps to places such as Singapore, Sydney and Cairns. 

Martin: Darwin is a very relaxed place and people aren’t in a hurry to do everything. I love the heat, people are friendly, there’s awesome fishing and always something to do.

How did you come to join the Waratah Football Club?

Martin: I played the 2008-09 season with the ‘Tahs and loved it. They are a very strong side so we thought about going somewhere else, but friendships and good memories of a fun, professional club drew me back. 

What are your roles on and off the field for the Waratahs?

Foley: To play footy to the best of my ability. In my first year at the club, I’m a leader and I enjoy helping the younger girls develop.

Martin:  I’m another option up forward to kick goals. We have a strong full forward who kicks bags week in week out (her best is 16 so far this season and she’s also bagged 13 and 12 in other matches). I’m also the team fine-master - I write out weekly fines and collect $$$ to go towards end-of-season festivities! 

How does women’s AFL football compare between Darwin and Bendigo, in terms of the standard of matches?

Martin: Both Waratah and Thunder are very strong teams all around the park and are familiar with kicking lots of goals every game. I would love them to play against each other - ‘Tahs might be a bit more physical but Thunder’s skill might beat them in the end.

What about the support among the club and community?

Foley: The Waratahs are a great bunch of girls, similar to the Thunder. They were very welcoming and we have made some life-long friends already. 

Martin: Everyone loves their footy in the territory. It’s a big club with a lot of juniors. Waratah has sponsors that donate player awards every week and for our team alone, that’s $150-200. We have trainers, water boys/girls, manager and coaches who all work together well on game day to get the job done.

Who are the stars of the NT women’s competition and who do they remind you of that Victorian fans could relate to?

Foley: Our team has a lot of stars - some people who have been playing footy for years. One girl comes and plays for us occasionally from the Tiwi Islands. She is very skilful and you could relate her to Eddie Betts, loves to snap a goal. 

Martin: The Tiwi girls are exciting to play with and against, so fast and skilful. Some have limited English so that’s another challenge. Our full forward Abbey Holmes has kicked more than a ton this season and is a very strong mark - the Buddy Franklin of the NTFL!

What has been your favourite NT football moment?

Foley: My best-on-ground performance against Palmerston. (She also starred against Tracy Village last weekend with five goals and best player honours).

Martin: Kicking five goals straight in round two.

What has been the hardest thing about playing in Darwin?

Foley: The heat.

Martin: Playing in the heat. You sweat so much during a game that the first couple of matches I felt dehydrated the next day.

Can you share any funny football stories that made you think, only in Darwin.....

Martin: We had one game cancelled due to a cyclone warning!

You played Gaelic football for a Darwin team in the Asian Gaelic Games in Malaysia last year. How was that sporting experience?

Foley: An absolutely amazing experience, one I will keep with me for the rest of my life.

Martin: It was like a mini FIFA tournament, with lots of Gaelic footballers, commentators and celebrities around - everyone loved it but had no idea who they were. Everyone loved the Darwin team and we were the talk of the tournament.

What was the most memorable thing that happened on that Gaelic Games trip?

Foley: On the opening night, we won an auction to have Bernard Brogan (the Gaelic equivalent to AFL’s Joel Selwood) as our coach/manager for the tournament. He was a great bloke and had recently won best-on-ground in the Gaelic grand final in Ireland. We were very successful for a new club that had only been playing football together for a year in our first real game/tournament. We lost in overtime in the semi-final. I didn’t expect to make it so far. 

What AFL team would you compare Waratah to and why?

Foley: Geelong – We have a variety of very strong players in all areas of the field. 

Martin: Geelong or Hawthorn - solid around the ground with a similar sneaky forward who kicks goals.

What kind of links does the women’s team have to the Waratah men?

Martin: We’re a close-knit club. Some of the boys even help out with training drills and on game day sometimes. We generally stay around to support the men and social functions are held as a whole club, so it’s good.

What are your plans for the future? Will you stay in Darwin or will you be bringing some of your experience from there back to central Victoria?

Foley: We plan to move back at some stage. When that will be, we don’t know. I would love to pull on a Thunder guernsey again one day in the Vic premier league.

Do you have a message for the Thunder girls in 2014? 

Foley: Good luck in the premier league, girls. Stick together, hold your heads up high. We have come a long way in three years, but we can always strive to go further. 

Martin: Good luck for the season. You will be playing against the best players in the state so respect it and enjoy it. Support and play for one another and have fun. I’ve no doubt Thunder will turn a few heads in 2014. Wish I was there, but maybe next year. Miss you all, Geeza.

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