• Jayden J Bartlett

Indi Lehman - the Hard Worker

Updated: Dec 20, 2021

Competing at dressage and show riding events requires plenty of hard work and commitment. It takes time, patience, and dedication to be able to create a bond between the rider and the horse – and Indi Lehman knows this all too well.

Riding since an early age, Indi has competed in eventing, dressage and show riding, often having to travel throughout the countryside and entailing early morning starts.

“So, since the age of under 12 I was riding my horse every day,” Indi said when asked about her background in riding. “Whether it was in the morning before school or after school till dark.”

“I used to get lessons every day from an English backpacker who lived across the road from us. The weekends consisted of prepping the horse and getting the float ready and cleaning all my gear the day before and then leaving at the crack of dawn to travel to a show.”

“The English backpacker was a very talented man and a brilliant rider and taught me everything I know. As well as put me through the pain of building up enough strength to work the horses.”

While she enjoys her time riding, the high amount of work that has to be done for her to ride in competitions and for leisure has taught Indi valuable life lessons. Simply, it takes plenty of effort to make a hundred-kilogram horse move.

“The shows were fun, I would dress up in my good ‘joddies’ and jacket and show off my pretty horse and the work I put into him, but they were long days out in the sun, wind and even rain.”

“I still ride today, covid shut down shows and competitions over the past year but it’s still nice to go for a ride to have a little break from everything as well as more exercise.”

These qualities of dedication, commitment, and patience, have all proved to be pivotal in Indi’s later move to football.

'A Smiling Giant' - image was kindly taken by Milli Gentle.

Football, like horse riding, has been a sport that Indi has loved since an early age but, unlike riding, she had to wait before she could begin playing regularly.

“I always loved it since I could walk,” Indi said when asked what made her want to play footy. “I had a tiny pink foam Sherrin footy and always loved kicking the footy with my brothers.”

However, despite her love of the game and except for 2 years of AusKick at a young age, Indi never had the opportunity to play footy growing up.

She often had to put her football dreams on hold, whether due to age or lack of chances. It would be a long journey back to football after her first taste of it back in AusKick.

“Then the idea of playing in the boys was thrown around but my parents were a bit hesitant in letting me play with boys and I was hit with the boys can’t play properly with a girl there.”

“It wasn’t until school footy in year 5 or 6 rekindled that flame of playing and then carried through to high school footy.

“In high school, there were more opportunities with state levels and academies starting up and finding the Bushrangers which was full steam ahead on the overall dream of playing.”

2017 marked the beginning of her footballing journey and, since her hometown doesn’t have a girls’ team, it was kicked off with her school team.

Hitting the ground running, she was selected into the 2017 NSWCCC Girls AFL side and, in school footy, her side was crowned as the 2017 NSW/ACT Under-15 Girls State Champions.

The qualities that she had gained throughout her years of riding led her to rapidly develop within the world of football. Once she had fallen in love with the game and found players to look up to in Tayla Harris and Darcy Vescio, she was set.

By 2018, she had started club footy with Queanbeyan and, by 2020, she made her first-grade debut at the age of 16. By 2020, her weekends consisted of first-grade football on a Saturday and rising stars footy on a Sunday. However, as impressive as this is, it was 2018 that proved to be her breakout year.

“The really big pivotal moment for me was 2018 when my family and I would travel to Canberra to watch my brother play for the Queanbeyan Tigers.”

“One time we arrived earlier, and the women’s first grade was playing, and I was so excited and shocked that there was an actual women’s competition and that there were teams that mirrored the boys league.

“That night the boys won, and we were at the club having a feed and talking to the men’s coach and eventually conversation moved to me, and he asked if I played footy.

“I said a little bit because I had only done school and state footy, and he got the women’s coach for me and got me a spot on the rising stars team.

“That Canberra weekend was huge for me because I was astounded there was even such thing as a women’s competition exactly like the men’s and I was allowed to play the game I love.”

2018, just 12 months after strapping on the boots, Indi’s breakout year included an NSWCCC Girls AFL side selection and the NSW All-Schools Nationals Side. In school footy, her side claimed the NSW/ACT Under-15s Girls State Championships and in club footy, her side was crowned as the AFL Canberra Rising Star Women’s Premiers.

Her tough and determined approach to her footy has seen Indi train alongside the local boys – a far cry from the earlier years when she was denied the chance to play.

“With that, in all these years I’ve been training with the local club boys, as the only girl. I still do this day but now with the first-grade boys.”

This development and success have continued throughout her years with Queanbeyan – proving that her breakout 2018 season was not a one-off. But just as her skills continue to persist, so does her passion for the game and the Tigers in particular.

“I instantly clicked with the team,” she said when asked about her time with the Tigers. “They were all so welcoming and so lovely I didn’t feel like that one stranger.”

“They welcomed me under their wing, and they soon realised I was pretty alright at the game and gave me a good run.

“I felt so lucky to be able to play in a weekend competition, so I took this opportunity and gave it my all. It was also a big step in terms of travel, so I wanted to make sure I was getting the most out of my parents' sacrifice of driving me 4 hours before the game then turning around and doing four hours back home.

“Being able to play every weekend, I saw my game and skills and confidence grow as the weeks went on. I was so happy and excited to have the chance to play the sport I loved.”

Keeping with the theme of impressive years, 2019 saw Indi become a South West Junior Youth Girls Premiership Player and her side finished runner-up to the Rising Star Women’s Premiership.

Her standout performances at the club level led her to have a run with the Southern Sports Academy as well as gain an invitation to take part in the Giants Academy.

“It’s been really good to watch it grow,” she replied when questioned about the academy. “Like I started the Giants with its first year of having a girl’s program that mirrored the boys.”

“Over the past couple of years, it’s been good to watch it grow in the sense of more girls in the Riverina playing and seeing the girl’s program have more early development in place.”

“I’ve had heaps of fun with it. Training alongside the boys, going to camps and reuniting with friends I’ve made in previous years that are part of the Canberra and Sydney Giants groups.

“The only thing with the Giants Academy is it’s still growing. So, like we only got trainings, a few camps and then a few games with it but it’s constantly becoming more involved, and more opportunities are arising with it so I’m keen for that.

“Again, I love the professionalism with the academy, you’ll hear the coaches say, this is what they do in AFLW Giants.”

'A Current and Future Star' - image was kindly supplied by Indi.

Despite not being the most memorable year for sport, 2020 was a huge year for this exciting prospect. Indi finished the season by being crowned as Queanbeyan’s Players Player, while also finishing runner-up to both the AFL Canberra Rising Star Women’s Best and Fairest and the Queanbeyan Rising Star Women’s Best and Fairest.

2020 also saw Indi take her footy to Victoria as she was invited to play for the Murray Bushrangers in the NAB League Girls competition.

“The Bushies were a step up in terms of a faster game, more skilled players so that was an instant shock,” she said when asked about the Bushrangers. “I too settled into the Bushies easy and well.”

“Everyone again was so inviting and there were a handful of girls from my local area that I knew which made it easier.

“I love my time with the bushies, it gives you a taste of what to expect at the elite level. I love that everyone is there to build each other up, I love that it’s a faster and more well-executed game compared to your weekend footy.

“I have to thank the bushies for my growth in footy. I had a new motivation of wanting to be at my best in bushies so I can get drafted which drove me to train harder, do more work behind the scenes.

“However, I don’t particularly love the 3 hours trip to trainings and then the dreaded 3-hour trip home cramped in a car when the body seizes up.”

Having spent years putting in the hard work to compete in horse riding the long car trips to games and the full weekends of footy were made easier. However, just like the English backpacker in her riding days, there has been great support behind her in her footy.

“My parents,” she replied when asked if there was anyone she’d like to thank. “Because if it wasn’t for them driving all over the countryside I wouldn’t have made all trainings and camps and games to improve my game.”

“And probably the coach of the local boys club because he was essentially my first coach, and he was the one to invite me to train with the boys which improved my skills, fitness and game.”

Having a love for the game that is unquestionable, Indi says that “literally the whole AFLW league” has had an impact on her footy.

“When the AFLW was established that fuelled me to work so much harder so I can hopefully play in it.”

Indi Lehman has already developed rapidly within 4 years of club level footy and, as her history in horse riding has shown us, she has the commitment, patience, and dedication to achieve her goals – meaning that the sky’s the limit for Giants' prospect.

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Article #217

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None of these images is owned by MWM; the images have been supplied by the player.

GWS Giants image kindly supplied and taken by Milli Gentle.

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