Danielle Marshall - the American Dream
Updated: Mar 19, 2020
I guess just make sure it is what you want. It is a lot of commitment. Quitting your job most likely. Leaving friends and family. Dealing with visa issues. And a lot of gym, running, and skill sessions. Your attitude is really important as you will not be the best when you get here like you might have been at home. You have to be willing to grow and change and learn from the girls and coaches here.
How far would you go to chase your dream?
In a time when most people have had to put their football dreams on hold, we thought that now would be a good time to reflect on one of the more remarkable lengths that a player has taken to chase their football dream.
And we are of course referring to the American that has been making moves within the AFLW, Danielle Marshall.
Danielle first fell in love with Australian Rules Football over a decade ago, when she “started watching footy on ESPN in 2009 until it stopped airing on ESPN in 2011”.
However, she couldn’t play it at the time because she was on a soccer scholarship at university.
But soccer is just one of many sports that she has experienced, as she has also previously “played basketball, volleyball, soccer, rugby, ultimate frisbee and ran cross country in high school”.
And by her own admission, all of these sports have been very helpful within certain aspects of Australia’s game.
But Danielle didn’t just play these various sports, she also found some success within them.
In college soccer, “we won our Conference Championship in three of my four years”. She also “made the elite eight of the NCAA D2 tournament,” three of her four years.
In 2017, she was voted as her ultimate frisbee team’s Most Valuable Player. Then in 2018, she was voted as her rugby union team’s Rookie of the Year.
So, with a successful sporting career that covers a wide range of sports, what was it that drew Danielle towards football?
Well she puts it down to simply wanting to try a contact sport, and with the marking and kicking mixed it, it made it even easier to love.
While she was first exposed to aussie rules football in 2009, it wasn’t until 2018 that she first began playing, as she joined the Arizona Hawks in the USAFL.
And during this same year, she would go on to win the Best and Fairest in the USAFL D2.
However, even during this time, making the AFLW wasn’t a dream of hers, as aussie rules doesn’t have the same following or anywhere near the same coverage in the United States as it does here.
“It is mostly a social sport in the USA, and I didn’t really know that the AFLW existed. I did think about wanting to play for The Freedom squad, which is the USAFL women’s national team that goes to the International Cup.”
But things began to change drastically following a match in Los Angeles.
“I was playing a game in LA and a guy named Cameron Richardson was there. He is a cricket manager from Melbourne and loves women’s sports.”
“About a month after the game, I get in contact with him and he says that he thinks I would have a shot in the VFLW and potentially the AFLW.”
“He used to work for the Bulldogs and helped during the fightback, so he knew a few people still there. Mainly, Alison Crabb and Chris Grant.”
“He managed to get me the opportunity to train with the VFLW team and the rest kinda fell in place from there.”
She then flew out to Australia in May of 2019 to “give it a shot”.
Upon first arriving in Australia, she would go on to play three games in the EDFL for the Aberfeldie women’s team as well as spending the 2019 VFLW season with the Western Bulldogs.
“I think my first VFLW game against Williamstown was a big one. I played well and it gave me hope that I could make it to AFLW.”
And she was certainly right, as she was offered the contract to play for the Western Bulldogs in the AFLW after just her third VFLW game.
And at the time, she was “mostly relieved that all the time spent training and the trip to Australia was worth it. But also, very excited obviously. Just processing everything that was needed to be done to make the move”.
It was also this same year that she got to experience one of her favourite football memories thus far. As she returned to the states after the VFLW season had finished, and won the D2 USAFL Championship in October 2019, with her beloved Arizona Hawks; which was paired with the Philly Hawks, Boston Demons and the Baltimore Dockers.
Even now, she can still recall what it was like when she first arrived at the club and met the rest of the Bulldog’s AFLW squad.
“I think I was a little nervous but mostly just determined to show them that I wasn’t there to waste their time, or mine.”
And “I Really liked the girls; they were very friendly and taught me a lot. And obviously the level was much higher than I had ever played footy at".
But even at the top level, she was still learning and developing her own game, which shows just how passionate and dedicated she is about her football.
“The first thing I changed was my ball drop, from two handed to one hand. Then remembering to shepherd is a different mindset for sure.”
“There are definitely certain things I’m still working on, like picking the ball up on the run and learning how to find dangerous space when transitioning.”
“But overall, I think soccer was very helpful for my transition, though ultimate frisbee may have been the most helpful sport for my forward craft.”
Making her debut during Round One of the 2020 AFL Women’s season, Danielle got to experience something that most debutants dream of, which is scoring a goal with your first kick.
Since then, she has become a regular for the Bulldogs, having played all six rounds thus far this season.
And her stats for her inaugural AFLW season also look rather promising, as she has collected a total of 32 disposals, 13 tackles and five marks while she has also managed to boot three goals from the first six games.
With an impressive sporting career that stretches across two countries and now a very bright path within the AFLW, there are understandably a lot of people that she would like to thank for helping her reach this position.
“There are a lot of people I would like to thank. For me, I really do believe that God brought me here which I am grateful for.”
Also, “my husband has been massively supportive, and I could not have done this without him”.
And “Cam Richardson who hosted me and brought me over. Alison Crabb for bringing me to Aberfeldie and also the Bulldogs. Steve MacPhereson for doing some one on one sessions. And my coach from Arizona, Darren Henderson.”
So, with one of the most intriguing yet successful sporting journeys that we have come across, what is next for this talented footballer?
“Kick some more goals and keep getting contracts really. I would like to play for another four or five seasons.”
At the end of the day, Danielle Marshall has come a very long way to get where she is today, and with passion and dedication that is unparalleled, it is safe to say that we will certainly keep hearing her name for years to come.
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