Jess Maher - Football's Journey
"It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. You can go as far as you want if you are willing to fight for it."
Every player, regardless of where they started or finished, has had their own unique footballing journey. Some follow in the footsteps of friends or family, others run on pure passion, and then there are those who begin their journey by chance.
For Jess Maher, growing up in a small rural town in New South Wales proved to be a blessing in disguise. This is because, in her hometown of Moree, football “was the only female contact sport”—so it was here that her footballing journey began.
However, despite choosing football by default due to a lack of options, Jess quickly fell in love with the game—especially the team aspect and comradery within the sport.
“The best thing about playing footy is the family you get from it, the memories within the club, and going through adversity with your own team and watching each other grow day in day out.”
Despite coming from a soccer background, this Moree product found her feet in football extremely quickly. In fact, during her first year of football in 2017 she was named as the Moree Suns’ Best and Fairest, Rising Star, and Leading Goalkicker. Her debut football season would then be topped off perfectly as she gained a place in the 2017 Northern Inland Academy.
However, her time with her local club was short-lived as she then moved up north to the sunshine state in 2018 where she began playing for the University of Queensland—but while the scenery changed, the accolades continued.
At the beginning of 2018 she joined the Simon Black Women’s Academy where, on top of completing university, she would train four days a week. This guidance further excelled Jess’s development, especially considering that at the time she only had roughly 12 months of football experience.
“It really helped developed me as a young player new to the sport both on the field and in the gym while being mentored and coached via Simon black and Nathan Clarke. It has provided a wide range of experience for me, from coaching through to playing high level AFL.”
This development helped pave the way for a breakout 2019 season, easily Jess’s best year to date. With the new year also came new colours as she made her way to Bond University--a club that she still currently resides at and time with which she says has “been unreal, and one awesome adventure”.
“… The amount of support offered within the club allows us to grow both as an athlete and individual, which is phenomenal.”
“I have loved playing with the girls, and it is something that’ll stay with me forever. I cannot wait to keep growing as a team and club.”
Wearing the heartfelt number 21, her accolades also continued. 2019 saw her be named as the Simon Black Academy Women’s Most Valuable Player, while she would also gain a spot on the Brisbane Lions Winter Series Team and the Queensland Emerging Talent Team, which she labels as her two favourite football moments thus far.
This breakout year would also be further recognised and rewarded during this year—as Jess’s footballing journey saw her join the Brisbane Lions as a train-on which “was an experience I won’t forget”.
“The skills and the environment within that level is outstanding. I am grateful for the opportunity as I was taught a lot but also made awesome memories.”
As well as gaining a lot of experience through academies and representative teams, Jess has also had some great support behind her over the past four years of football.
Which is why “I would like to thank my dad, Nan, Mark, close friends and physiotherapists for the constant support and belief in me as a player and individual.”
So, what is the next chapter in Jess’s footballing journey?
“Getting drafted, becoming a more versatile player and winning a premiership with my club” are Jess’s goals for the future.
So far her football journey has seen her enjoy a humble and standout start to footy with Moree—before having a breakout season with Bond University in 2019, and then more recently getting some valuable experience as Brisbane Lions train-on.
Keeping in mind that all this has come to just the past four years, Jess Maher’s future looks bright to say the least—and her goals for the future may be fulfilled sooner rather than later.
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None of these photographs are owned by MWM; all images have been supplied by the player and have been personally shot.