• Jayden J Bartlett

Grace Painting: the Right Step Forward

Wanting, dreading, loving, fearing … Making a senior football debut at a young age can be daunting for some, and exhilarating for others. It is a unique moment for a young footballer, a moment that makes something that may have been done many times before feel strangely new.

Ask a player about their debut experience, and most will highlight the build-up to the bounce as the most nerving moment. The excitement and nerves seem to fester during this period. And that’s when the mind begins questioning itself: am I ready; what if I don’t play well?

Grace Painting, 17, came into her senior debut for the Pennant Hills Demons overflowing with enthusiasm – and rightfully so. See, making a senior debut at a young age signals a step toward a new – and usually bright – chapter. It is a step that reflects both promise and potential. A step in the right direction.

And having spent her first 4 years of playing football at the Baulkham Hills Hawks; Grace was by no means new to the sport. Yet she too felt those nerves begin to radiate pregame when she made a Round One debut for the Demons.

“A little bit,” Grace replied when asked if she felt nervous pregame. “Specially to go against older girls. But all gone once I started playing. Even better to get a win and sing the song after.”

To further engrain this moment with excitement; Grace’s efforts on debut were recognised with the AFL Sydney Rising Star nomination for Round One. A perfect end to an exhilarating experience. And the perfect response to end any lingering self-doubt. Yet this has been just one of many promising moments in Grace’s ever-brightening journey.

Having grown up watching football and supporting Hawthorn; Grace always had an interest in football, but not in playing it. Her first taste of the sport came when she played in a primary school cup, but still, footy took a backseat to her netball. So, what got her interested in playing?

“Well, it wasn’t until the AFLW Comp started that I got interested in wanting to play,” she said. “So, the next year I signed up to give it a go.”

From here, she joined the aforementioned Baulkham Hills Hawks in 2018. Then, 4 years later, she made her debut for the Demons. Seems simple enough … but in between these 2 beginnings; there has been plenty of promising moments for the Western Sydney prospect.

Grace in the charcoal and orange - this image was kindly supplied by Grace Painting.

Within 2 years of first strapping on the boots, Grace had become a back-to-back premiership player. The Hawks, colloquially known as Baulko, achieved the premiership double in the 2018 and 2019 under-16 girls’ seasons. And this dream start seemed to resonate throughout the years that followed.

Soon came a spot in the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants Academy. A spot that she has held since 2021, and one that has seen her play a few games for them including this year’s Summer Series matches, which were held in February. An experience that not only highlights her potential but one that “has been really good” to be a part of as well.

“… It has helped me so much to develop and give me opportunities to play in some awesome matches,” Grace said about her time in the Giants Academy. “I’ve learnt heaps about footy and what it takes to get to the top level. The coaches and the environment are great, definitely love being a part of it.”

Continuing to make strides in the right direction, Grace was then filled with a sense of state pride as she represented the NSW/ACT Rams in their clash with the Allies during the under-18 AFLW Championships.

“Absolutely loved it,” she said when asked about the Rams' experience. “An amazing experience to be able to represent your state and getting to play with and against some really good players. It had been a goal from earlier on, so pretty cool to be able to do it and play at that level.”

And getting to represent the Rams “was definitely a proud achievement and something I had been working towards”. So, for Grace, this was as much another step in the right direction as it was a memorable experience.

Grace in the Rams colours - this image was supplied by Grace Painting.

It has been a relatively short journey in the football world for Grace. Yet it seems every step she has taken has been heading in the right direction. From those early days at Baulko to making her senior AFL Sydney debut with Pennant Hills Demons - or Penno if you’re a local; Grace has been travelling down an ever-brightening path.

As for her time at the Demons … well, she has “absolutely loved it so far”.

“… Everyone has been so welcoming and the environment around the club is great. I’ve been really enjoying training and playing at that higher level with the older girls and Penno has been very supportive and helped me to keep improving my footy. Always good to get a win here and there to.”

And long gone are those nervous feelings that she had during Round One of the 2022 AFL Sydney season. Now she is a proud Pennant Hills Demon, through and through. And with that comes a new question: what next?

“Goal would be to get drafted one day,” Grace said when asked what she wants to achieve next. “That’d be amazing, but in the meantime just keep getting better with every game and every opportunity I get.”

And so, continues the story of Grace. Ignoring those feelings that a debutant flutters through on that special day: wanting, dreading, loving, fearing.

Instead, she leans toward more doing and less feeling. Maybe this is why she has made so many steps in the right direction. All we can be sure of is that Grace Painting will continue to make many more promising steps forward – until she arrives at her dream.

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Article #237

Minutes with Moose would like to thank all of our ambassadors.

All of these photographs were supplied by Grace Painting.

#WatchtheWomen #AFLSydney #PennantHills #MinuteswithMoose

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