Ashlea Weston - a Leader in the Making
Updated: May 16, 2020
'If you are a girl playing footy, never let anyone tell you that you can’t. There will always be people who say you are not strong enough or fast enough just because you are a girl, but it is what makes us girls that makes our league of footy so different to the guys. It is a fact; girls play different footy to guys. But it is what you use that power for that makes us so strong. Use the negativity given from others and turn it into strength. You only stop when you believe you can’t. So, believe you can, and you will. Dream big and play bigger; and I think that is all anyone could ever need to be able to absolutely crush footy. Passion starts a flame.'
The writing is on the wall for this young prospect from the Australian Capital Territory who, after spending three seasons with her beloved Belconnen Magpies, has already begin to make a mark for herself not just on the footy field but also off.
And this is because during those three years she has played in six Grand Finals for both male and female teams as well as representing the ACT at Nationals in 2019 and she has also earned a spot in the South East Sports Academy.
Yes, the writing really is on the wall for this promising player, but as far as Ashlea Weston is concerned, her football journey is only just beginning.
However, there are more accolades to add to what we have already mentioned, and these include but are not limited to; a spot in the Female Giants Academy in 2019, club Captain for the 2019 season and several club awards.
But arguably of the best aspects of Ashlea is something that we hinted at earlier; which is the high level of leadership she holds.
And it is this same high level of leadership that has seen her experience both Captain and coaching roles during her young but successful career.
These leadership roles include getting to Captain her “school teams that won the comps”.
“Captaining the school team was a whole different experience since it was just a lot of girls from my school having a bit of fun against other schools out in the heat just giving our all and having a laugh.”
But they also include the times she got to be an assistant coach for the younger girl’s sides.
“It feels so good knowing that the little girls I coach look up to me and come to my games to cheer me on just like I do for them, which goes back to the club bring like a family.”
“And coaching them, seeing how much potential they have for the club in the future is great knowing that I have influenced their football careers for the future. They are so little and really energetic, so it is great to have a run around with them.”
And of course, it also includes the earlier mentioned 2019 season when she was the Captain of her beloved Belconnen side.
“Getting to captain a team and win a Premiership in the same year was amazing.”
And “it is such an amazing atmosphere around the club, and everyone knows everyone. It is like a family at the club and it is such an honour to wear the Magpies jersey”.
However, these responsibilities aren’t too much of a surprise considering that she holds similar roles away from football as well.
“I am a teacher at my dance school too and do sports leadership at school. I also do little athletics for the Ginninderra Tigers and I am a junior coach.”
“I just genuinely love the leadership roles I can play and helping younger kids cause it reminds me of how much I loved participating in these things when I was younger and how much I looked up to my coaches back then and I hope I can have the same impact on these kids.”
And it is very special to find qualities such as these in a player this young and not only that, but also the fact that she is actually taking action and getting into these positions shows just how much of a passionate and strong leader Ashlea is.
And she also aspires to take her coaching even further down the track.
“Definitely senior coaching down the track but 100%; following in the footsteps of my dad coaching first grade at Belconnen if I can get there.”
So, keeping in mind what she has already achieved within football; what is it about the game that Ashlea has fallen in love with?
“I love the sense of family that being in a club or team can offer, going down to a footy match on a Saturday morning to cheer on people we barely even know, being able to wear the club colours and have this fun rivalry with your mates on the other teams.”
“It is competitive but then at the end of the day you can walk up and shake hands and still be mates no matter the score.”
And it is this same love of the game that has pushed her to reach some of her most cherished sporting memories thus far.
“Travelling with the ACT team and getting to see some of the amazing talent that Australia’s youth has to offer in footy and being given the opportunity to show my potential and get to play against intense competition.”
“And going away to Jindabyne for our South East Sports Academy camp and being tested at such an elite level exactly like they do for the AFLW Draft Combine and scoring surprisingly well on those tests and at that time I was like ‘wow this is getting real and professional’.”
And it is programs like these that will undoubtebly help fast-track Ashlea’s development and will help her achieve even more in the following years.
“It is honestly a very intense program and even the trials were pretty challenging, but it is a rewarding experience and really is setting me up for the next level. It is quite a bit of fitness and craft but considering the opportunity we get from being in the program it is definitely worth it.”
However, it also seems that this centre half forward has also had some teammates along the way that have also helped her along her journey in various ways.
“Getting to play with Ellie Hicks was such a blessing because when you’re a 13 year old playing in the under 18s it can be a bit daunting, especially when all of your opponents are bigger than you too.”
“She was a great leader when not many others saw me as a team mate, always encouraged and supported me, super kind on and off of the field and an amazing player. I definitely look up to her even now when we no longer play in the same team. And she always tried to sneak me a goal or two .”
“And when I played with the boys, Nic Hanily was the only guy who acknowledged me throughout the season as a genuine player. He was super supportive and always celebrated with me when I did something good even when the other boys didn’t.”
“He really helped me build my confidence and gave me this perspective that as long as I’m having fun and improving, I could not care less about what others think of me. I’m just here to play for my own passion and to be part of a family.”
With everything we have said; it is safe to say that Ashlea has certainly experienced a lot; from playing with the boys to the girls, from captaining to coaching; but there have been two games in particular that have really stood out to her.
“One of the Grand Finals I played with the boys I hadn’t played very well with them all season seeing as they didn’t really know me and ‘didn’t wanna pass the ball to a girl’ so I didn’t really do much in the games but after they started to see that having a girl on their team could actually be a huge threat to the opposition I started getting more ball time and during the 2018 Grand Final I just played really well out of nowhere and shocked them all.”
“And I guess that game was really important to me because it’s when I was accepted from the boys that even though I’m a girl I can still tackle hard and score goals like they can, and still be a threat to the opposition. Even though we ended up losing that game, we lost as a team cause finally they accepted and appreciated me as a valuable member of their little family.”
“Even now I still have that respect from them and it’s great that more girls are getting involved in footy, and so many girls play against the boys and show them that we aren’t Restricted cause we are girls. We are just harder to tackle.”
“And the other game I really remember is having played against Victoria at Nationals and I was in complete awe of how they do what they do. As they ended up winning the Nationals Competition they clearly beat us by quite a bit but wow as a team we all put up a bloody good fight.”
“I was told I played really well in that game even though I didn’t notice it until later, and I felt proud. Not because I played well, but because of the other team. They were really good sports about the whole game, and it was clear that they just had the upper hand, but they were just a genuine bunch of talented players that were all playing because they love the sport.”
“Besides the fact that I played surprisingly well as a backline player while we were massively losing, I was really glad that aussie rules footy is producing these amazingly disciplined talented players.”
And with all of these experiences; there are of course setbacks.
And for Ashlea, this setback came when she tore her meniscus while playing in the Grand Final with the boys. However, because she was unaware of the injury, she played two Grand Finals the following day with the girls.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, she continued too play Oztag during the offseason and even felt the effects of the injury the following year during preseason.
While she did definitely feel pain and had to have it strapped and taped; she thankfully never ended up missing any games; which is probably because she played the rest of them before realising.
But while her career has had setbacks, it has also been impacted positively by various people that Ashlea still feels so gracious for.
“As female impacts Jodie Hicks and Amber Allen have both been amazing coaches for me and Jodie has gone on to play AFLW which makes me put things into perspective and inspire me to strive for greatness like she had taught me.”
“My ACT coach Leo Lahey and other coaches such as Tash McKay have impacted my beginnings of what I hope are a football career, and of course my parents and two sisters have been incredibly supportive of me and they constantly cart me around town and even to Tassie when I went for Nationals. It is a big commitment and I owe it to everyone who has ever been supportive of me.”
So, with all of this in mind; what is next for this promising player?
“Definitely to keep stepping up my levels and improving, keep gaining experience and gathering as much guidance from mentors as I can, anything that can possibly help me step up my game and make my friends, family and club proud. I think that the next step for me could potentially be the Rams or Eastern Allies team.”
“And to be honest when I started out in my first year I was a very mediocre player doing it for the fun. But over the last few years I have seen different perspectives and gained experiences, and I never thought I would be able to make a representative side especially since women’s football is so rapidly improving.”
“If anyone had asked me where I would be in three years’ time I would never have guessed that I made it to a representative level.”
And if you were to ask us where we think she will be in three years’ time; our answer would be quite simple as the answer is written on the wall.
Because as far as we are concerned, Ashlea's football journey is only just beginning, but she is already a leader in the making.
Article #93 (Updated)
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