• Jayden J Bartlett

Kimberley Rowe - the Panther from KI

Kangaroo Island is a place that, although being well known for its tourist destinations, is often overlooked when it comes to its contributions to football.

The island, which lies within South Adelaide’s zone, has had a long history of gifting the Panthers with talented players.

Currently, 2 of the Panthers senior men’s players hail from the island, while Bradley Crabb, a former captain and 200-gamer for South, was affectionately known as the King of KI.

This tradition of producing state-league talent has reached a new chapter in 2022 with Kimberley Rowe, an up-and-coming ruck-defender from Yankalilla, set to become the first female footballer with KI origins to join the Panthers.

“Only just found out I was the first KI girl,” Kimberley said when asked how it felt to be the trailblazer. “I hope I’m not the last.”

“At Yank, they have been giving some of the KI girls’ opportunities to come up to play footy for them since there is no women’s league on KI.”

“I would love to see more girls from there come up and start their footy journey because I’m sure there would be a lot of talented young girls.”

Growing up on the island, Kimberley’s early sporting life consisted primarily of netball. First stepping on the court at age 4, Kim played for Dudley and then, after moving to the mainland, she joined Yankalilla.

After a promising stint of playing netball, which included being selected into the Southern Academy, Kim made the “sad decision” to quit netball this year so she could focus solely on her football.

However, deciding to quit netball to focus on football is a far cry from where her mind was at about the sport just 5 years ago. Originally Kim became interested in football because her friends played it and, for her first 2 years, it was more of a “social thing”.

But during her third season of football, “I started enjoying the sport and from there on I just loved improving and trying new positions”.

“And now I’m here in my fifth year – very passionate about the sport.”

Kimberley (far left) during the Panthers preseason - image was taken by MWM

Throughout the past 5 years, Kimberley has called the Yankalilla Tigers home, with all of her club level football spent playing in the yellow and black she has developed into a true team player.

“I’ve loved being at Yank,” she said when asked about her time at the Tigers. “They’ve upheld the one club mentality and made all the women footballers feel welcomed.”

“I think it’s amazing how they’ve embraced this new side of the sport.”

“All the volunteers have dedicated so much time and energy to help so many beginners develop into talented footballers.”

This passion for the Tigers reached a new height in 2021 when Kim was selected to captain the club’s under-17 girl’s side.

“I loved being captain,” she said when asked how it felt to lead to her side. “Very proud of my team who made it to the preliminary final.”

“We had a very young team who improved so much through the year, and it just felt amazing to help them grow and watch their development.”

Not only was it good to see her team’s continuing development throughout 2021 but this opportunity was also a great way to further develop her football.

Since she first strapped on the footy boots in 2018 she has continually developed throughout the years before finally making it into the South Australian National Football League Women’s (SANFLW) competition.

In 2020, the year that she began to find the passion for footy, she received Yankalilla’s Most Improved award and was selected to represent the Great Southern’s under-16s association side.

Then in 2021, Kim finished runner-up to Yankalilla’s under-17s Best and Fairest while also once again donning the Great Southern’s Association jumper.

“It’s always a bit scary playing with a new team that you’ve had limited training with,” she said about her time playing Association footy. “But it was a great experience to play with the people that we usually play against.”

Throughout these years at Yankalilla, the young ruck has been fortunate to have some great support behind her – whether it’s from her family or her Yankalilla family.

“My Dad has been a major impact on my footy, he loves his footy and has taught me so much.”

“After every game, he gives me a rundown of how I went and what I can do better next time. He is my biggest supporter and my biggest critic.

Also, “Helen Maidment and Craig Wilson are some of my biggest supporters from Yank”.

“They have both taught me so much with footy and encouraged me to be the best I can be.”

'The Panther from KI' - image was taken by MWM.

Although Kim never expected to make the Panthers squad, the jump from the GSFLW level to the SANFLW level has been an eye-opening yet much-cherished experience for the young leader.

“It’s a massive step up, the opportunities there are great. The dedication from the coaches is amazing and the overall intensity is great. The right standard for an elite level.”

“Honestly I’m loving it,” she said when asked about her time with the Panthers so far. “The intensity is so high there and everyone pushes each other to be their best.”

“It has pushed me to be the fittest I can and develop as much as I can. The girls there are so welcoming, and they all support one another which is great.”

“I’m enjoying the high standard of footy out there, and since everyone is so talented it makes you strive to develop more.”

This explains why, when asked what she is looking forward to the most in 2022, she simply replied with playing for the ‘Panfs’.

“It’s gonna push me so much as the competition among the clubs in this league has such a high standard,” she said when asked about 2022.

“I’m loving the fact that I’m already improving, and the season hasn’t even started, so I can’t wait to see how much I’ll improve by the end of the season.”

“I will also be looking forward to coming back to Yank once the SANFLW season has finished, and playing with my old teammates again.

“Honestly I want to see how far I can go; I’d love to make it to the big league but for now I’m just going to see how far I can go.”

Considering how far this promising ruck-defender has developed within the past 3 years especially. From starting in football for the social side, then becoming an association footballer and team captain - it seems like Kimberley Rowe is heading in the right direction.

Yet despite where her footy takes her, this young prospect has already made history by becoming the first South Adelaide SANFLW player from Kangaroo Island.

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Article #219

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All of these images have been taken by Minutes with Moose.

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