Cleo Saxon-Jones - the Jet
Updated: Dec 13, 2019
"I love being in the team environment, like a big family, being able to lean on each other for support and be open with one another, as well as some good banter. Also, when I see my teammates develop as footballers and people for the better is pretty cool."
Stories about persistence are some of the best stories around.
Persistence is all about refusing to give up and going against the grain.
But what can persistence and this refusal to give up actually lead to?
Well, this is where Victorian prospect Cleo Saxon-Jones comes into the picture;
“Persistence is key, I’ve been dropped from representative teams and it’s hard, but keep at it, work harder than you did before, work harder than your teammates.”
“I’ve been dropped and gave up for a few years and took the easy road, then came to the realisation that I am good enough, I gave it another crack and I would never had thought I’d be where I am now three years later.”
But where exactly is Cleo?
Well in 2019, Cleo’s football accolades include, but are not limited to; a Premiership with Wyndhamvale in 2017, two appearances for the Victorian Metro U18s and a spot in the AFLW Academy.
On top of this, she is also the Vice-Captain of the Western Jets and she finished as a finalist in the NAB League Personal Growth Award.
However, she got a taste for football very early on;
“I started with AusKick and finish around grade 4 and went on to play basketball; I still loved footy, I played with the boys at lunch time and I went to VFL and AFL games with dad.”
But it wouldn’t be until years later that she would start playing properly;
“When I was 13, I was playing Premier Women’s Cricket and one of my teammates asked if I played footy, I said, “no but I’d love to, mum and dad were a bit hesitant”. I went down to preseason and loved it.”
“I got to play my first season with Western Bulldogs super star Naomi Ferris in an undefeated side until the Grand Final when we played Melbourne Uni U18s who had Monique Conti (Richmond) and Issy Huntington (Bulldogs) in the team.”
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Cleo;
“I didn’t make my first rep team and lost all my confidence to keep trying out because I was told I wasn’t good enough.”
So, she had a choice; either stay where she was with no ambitions of playing in higher tiers, or dust herself off and get back to business.
And what choice did she make?
Well she made the choice that only the strongest or the bravest are prepared to do;
“A couple years later I gave it another crack, and thank god I did because I wouldn’t have come as far as I am.”
And it was this decision that has led her to some of the achievements we mentioned earlier.
But as a true leader; Cleo values the memories and her love of the game over the success.
And it is only fitting that she has her fair share of great memories already;
“The Premiership, winning our first game for Jets, playing on Metricon, kicking three goals on Metricon; the week for nationals on the Gold Coast was one of the best footy camps I’ve been on; training with the Western Bulldogs (team I grew up following) AFLW over summer through the National Academy.”
Looking more into her time on the Gold Coast for the National Championships;
“It was a really good close group of girls this year. I think at translated with our results on the scoreboard. But we all spent the nights together after dinner playing card games, talking and having fun.”
“We all had each other’s back on and off the field, and no one thought they weren’t better than anyone else. We were just a group of girls playing a game they love and doing very well.”
“I think one of the best teams I’ve been a part of makes it the most memorable and one of my grateful memories and experiences.”
And as for what it was like to train along side players from the team that she grew up following;
“So much fun, training alongside Katie Brennan, Ellie Blackburn, Bonnie Toogood and all the other girls was amazing. I learnt so much and will carry that on for years to come. It was amazing.”
Earlier we begged the question of what Cleo’s persistence had led her to achieving.
And if she just gave up and walked away the first time, she didn’t get selected; female football would’ve lost a promising player long before she made her presence felt.
But instead she made the right decision and even recently, it has been paying off as she took part in the 2019 AFLW Draft Combine.
“It was a great experience, once in a lifetime and something not many people at all get the opportunity so I embraced every second. It was good to see how I tested against the other girls, good to get some media experience as well.”
“It was great seeing the metro and academy girls again also. It was my last “junior camp” I guess, so I took in every minute. I learnt a lot about myself as well as footy related stuff as well.”
So, with the AFLW draft getting closer every day, how valuable is Cleo?
Well it is safe to say she is persistent, and she has a healthy five years of experience. Not to mention that as the Vice-Captain of the Western Jets, she has leadership and a great team-first mentality;
“The Jets has been a great time; we weren’t the most successful during my time there but the grit and the determination all the girls showed was as good as any other.”
“It was great being given the Vice-Captain position; I enjoyed every minute of leading the team. The coaches and staff have also made me the person I am today, by no means would I be in the position I am now, but thanks to a few of them I’ve walked out better after the three years in the program than I walked in. It’s been a huge part of my development on and off the field.”
And all of this, makes her dream a possible reality;
“To get drafted in two weeks has been the goal for three years, ever since I’ve taken footy seriously it’s been the goal and it’s all come down to now essentially. I’ve done what I could and hopefully that’s enough to get my name called out on draft day.”
But this is Cleo we are talking about; so even if she doesn’t get picked up by an AFLW club this year, she definitely will not just roll over;
“However, if this doesn’t happen, I’ll gladly go back to playing with Melbourne Uni, have a big preseason, win the flag and put my best foot forward to get picked up next year for the 2021 season.”
“But I’m just looking forward to a consistent season to be honest. This year I’ve played for 4-5 different teams and with that comes different teammates, coaches, structures and game plans and that just happens when you’re in the talent pathway. So next year I’m looking forward to being settled in a team and having consistency and routine throughout the season.”
And it is this respectful aspect of Cleo that makes it a matter of when she will get drafted, not if.
And this leads us to a very important piece of advice from the young gun, a piece of advice some people seem to forget;
“Most importantly have fun, personally I play my best footy when I’m having fun and enjoying it. Also, life doesn’t have to be footy 24/7, that’s something I’ve struggled with this year. It’s important to find time to remove yourself from footy every now and then.”
“Take a day out a week to not concentrate on footy, or do something every day which isn’t footy, enjoy being a kid while you can.”
And this is why when she isn’t playing, she has some other hobbies to escape from footy;
“I enjoy surfing and skating; I love the beach.”
And while footy is meant to be fun; it has helped Cleo in more ways than one;
“I’ve had some hard family situations over the last few years and footy has been able to let me escape that and get out of hard times myself.”
But just as we applaud her for making the right decision and chasing her dreams; there are people that she would like to thank for helping her throughout her amazing footy journey;
“Mum and dad always supporting me in everything I do.”
“Claudia and Tang have been mentors for me for the last two years especially in my career both on and off the field. They are the people I go to for about anything and I believe they have a big influence in the person I am today.”
“My teach Christian has worked with Collingwood and gold coast in coaching and welfare so he’s been good to go for footy stuff and what to expect in coming through the system.”
“And Burkey I met for the first time I this year, but I believe playing under him when he coached Metro I think I played some of my best footy, and the way he went about the championships was to have fun and not over think the process and the what if/outcome, which I will definitely use going forward.”
So, as Cleo’s footy career continues down a very bright path, let her be a prime example of persistence can lead to.
Which is victory and success.
Images - AFL Photos, David Layden Photography 2019
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