NOT too long ago, any pre-teen contemplating playing Australian rules football could look forward to a short life-span in the game.
How times have changed. Just ask Molly Pianta.
The 14-year-old will this weekend play her 100th game when she lines up for Golden Square’s under-18 girls team against Woorinen.
What makes Molly’s achievement all the more remarkable is that the bulk of her games – which include a mix of Bendigo Junior Football League and Worksafe AFL Victoria representative games – have come against girls three and four years older than her.
The skilful on-baller, who goes by the nickname ‘Barry’, plays in the BJFL under-18 competition.
She started her career as an eight-year-old in the under-10s against the boys with South Bendigo, and quickly progressed to under-12s (also against the boys) the following year with the Bloods before a stint with Eaglehawk.
Only one of her games for Golden Square was played in the under-15 competition, before she was quickly elevated to the under-18s.
She also played under 18s as a 12 and 13-year-old in 2016-17 with Eaglehawk.
Molly, who is in the Bulldogs’ leadership group as deputy vice-captain, said she was largely undaunted fronting up against older and taller girls each week.
“I just go out there and play the sport I love," she said.
“When I was a little girl I just used to pick up the football and kick with my brother and other family and ever since I’ve just stayed with it.”
Molly, who has played for the BJFL at under-15, under-16 and under-18 level and hopes to represent the region in the V/Line Cup later this year, said she was grateful for the opportunities now afforded girls in football.
“I was playing with the boys initially and thought it was cool, but I was a bit worried that after I turned 14 I might have to stop because there were no girls’ side,” she said.
“Luckily things changed and I was able to keep playing.”
Molly hopes to one day play senior football for Bendigo Thunder.
Odds are she will achieve that goal at a young age.