Jess Kirk - the Long Awaited Return
We all know about the lack of opportunities that female footballers used to have as they grew up.
In a time not that long ago, when the AFLW competition and even the junior SANFLW pathways were non-existent; many girls had to give up their beloved sport as they grew up, with most not even having the chance to play footy again.
South Adelaide’s Jess Kirk was one of those who had to push aside her footy dreams and went on to play soccer instead.
However, 2019 saw Jess make her long-awaited return to football and after seeing how well she played, it is still hard to believe just how long she was out of the game for.
Originally, she had played football as a junior for six years and she even “reached state level as a junior with the boys with footy”, before being made to find another sport;
“I lived and breathed it when I was younger, when I hit the age of 16 I got told I was no longer allowed to play with the boys anymore and because women’s footy wasn’t a thing back then, I had to stop playing altogether and it crushed me; so I turned to soccer.”
Jess then went on to play soccer for the next seven years and reached over 100 senior games for South Adelaide before deciding to make her long-awaited return to football.
“Going back to footy wasn’t a hard decision at all.”
Luckily for us, despite spending seven years away from the footy field, she hadn’t lost too much of her skills and it didn’t take her long to pick the game up again;
“The only thing I found difficult was the physical side to the game because obviously soccer is no contact, everything else didn’t take me long at all to get back into the swing of things.”
And what a comeback to football it was for Jess as she finally got to experience the next tier of football, as she donned the blue and white of South Adelaide’s SANFLW team;
“Unbelievable, it shattered me when I couldn’t play and being able to be doing what I am with the club I’m at is just amazing.”
“Amazing, I enjoyed every second; winning a premiership, doesn’t get any better than that.”
However, as we mentioned earlier, for anyone who has seen Jess play football this year, they would find it hard to believe just how long she was out of the game for.
And that is because, if 2019 taught us anything, it is that Jess is a natural footballer and never looked out of place in the Panthers forward line this season.
With strong hands and impressive agility, she proved to be a dangerous opponent when the ball was in the air or on the ground.
In fact, Jess’s first season of senior football saw her average of two marks and nearly three tackles a game from the ten games she played this SANFLW season; as well as this, she also booted five goals and collected 68 disposals at an outstanding 72% disposal efficiency.
And her highlight for the year, other than the Premiership, was;
“Knocking Norwood out to go through to the Grand Final us as a team and everyone personally played our best game of the season and that’s definitely a game to remember!”
Which Jess herself gathered three marks and kicked an important goal during this game.
And through all this time and Jess’s remarkable comeback, there is someone she would like to thank who was there at the very start of her footy journy;
“The one person who stands out whose helped me with my career is my junior coach Damien Smith or ‘Sarge’, never gave up on me and made me believe that I was capable of achieving anything with footy still to this day.”
So, now that she has made her long-awaited return to footy, what is next for this talented forward?
“Always been a forward but hoping to slot into the midfield this season and get amongst it a bit more.”
“And would love to go to the big stage.”
And while we cannot say for certain where she will end up; it is safe to say that she will certainly put in the hard yards to achieve anything.
And after witnessing her impressive come-back to footy, we should be thankful that she decided to return.
Images by Nick Hook Photography, SAFC Media
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