• Jayden J Bartlett

Lauren Bird - a Spectacular Journey

Lauren Bird has achieved a remarkable amount within just four years of first strapping on the footy boots. In fact, her footballing journey so far has been nothing short of spectacular.

When Lauren first began playing football in 2017, she had “very little knowledge about footy”, a fact that would soon change. But despite her limited knowledge of the sport and after her years of competitive swimming had come to an end, she simply “wanted to have a crack at it”.

However, for some, it may be difficult to think that football could have been without this super promising player since she had actually previously passed on the idea of playing footy.

“I was with one of my friends and we watched their little sisters match for my local club, and I had originally turned down the idea of playing as I didn’t think I would be good enough as I had done rugby 7s at school and quite frankly a smaller build like mine didn’t hold up with it.”

But I went to watch and instantly changed my mind and thought this looks like so much fun and that afternoon my dad was organising for me to be registered and two weeks later I made my debut, and I kicked a couple of goals and fell in love with it.”

Thankfully with this change of mind, Lauren began her footballing journey, and it was with the St Ives Junior Football Club in Sydney that she would begin it with.

She did not have to wait long for her first big break, since 2018 saw Lauren get selected in the inaugural AFL Academy for Sydney North, this would certainly not be the last time that she was an inaugural member of something either.

This spot in the Sydney North AFL Academy then led to her selection into the inaugural Under-16s NSW/ACT team which was her “first big gig in footy”.

Meanwhile, she was still performing very well in local-level football as she finished third overall in the Sydney Junior Competition Best and Fairest, and runner-up to her club's Best and Fairest.

'Lauren in Action' - image kindly supplied by Lauren.

Considering that, after just her debut season, Lauren was already playing representative football, you would be forgiven for believing that she enjoyed a dream start to her footballing journey. While in many ways she did, it was not exactly all smooth sailing for the young prospect.

“I went through a bit of a slump in 2019 and almost gave up footy but there were some pretty special people who got me through that, and they know who they are.”

We have to give credit to her and those who helped her remain strong and to continue with her football during that time—especially since her biggest year of football was just around the corner.

After managing to stick with her football, Lauren earned a spot in the NSW/ACT Under-18s side during 2019/20. As well as this, she also spent two more years in the state-based academy programs “before Covid took its toll last year”.

However, 2020 was not all doom and gloom for Lauren’s football, as she was “lucky enough” to Captain St Ives Under-18s side to the premiership.

“Some of my favourite moments include my Grand Final win last year with St Ives, after a few Grand Final losses in my junior career it was the best end to it, and to be able to run out with some girls I had been with from the start was super special.”

As her time with St Ives ended, she then progressed to the North Shore Bombers, but not before making some more highlights to add to her promising footballing journey.

This is because, as mentioned earlier, Lauren was the Captain of her side which is a quality of hers that would resurface just a year later. This is fitting since being a leader is something that she finds “very rewarding”.

“… I love being able to showcase my energy and love for the sport through these roles but also be able to include everyone as much as possible in all aspects of footy on and off the field.”

Her love for footy is without question, but despite all of the accolades to her name, the “best thing would definitely have to be the people I’ve met”.

“I’ve met some of my best friends through footy and have also met some people higher up who have been so so inspirational and helped me through so much.”

“For example, Georgia Walker who is our well-being coach at the Giants currently, I met her back in 2019 and she’s helped me through so much with my troubles with studies and injuries and just overall life which I am so grateful for.”

"I think the best moments have always been around the people who have pushed me the most and who support my dreams in footy, which makes the experiences that much better."

This high level of gratitude and passion certainly explain why Lauren has become such a strong candidate to lead her side—and it is not just St Ives that noticed this quality.

'The Giants' Leader' - image kindly supplied by Lauren.

All of the experiences over the past few years were all building up to something great, and by her own admission, “this past year has been the best by far”.

This is because Lauren was selected into the inaugural Under-19s GWS Giants Academy, which opened doors to many other great experiences such as matches against her old “teammates in the Sydney Swans Academy”.

This also led her to play some NAB League Girls matches with the Giants and in particular, the match “against Murray Bushrangers, which was a super good game to be involved with and to come away with a win was even better”.

Overall, her time in the Giants Academy has been “unforgettable and extremely rewarding”. “I felt as if it was almost a redemption for everything Covid had taken from my last year in the AFL pathways.”

“The pathways had brought so much to me, and I was devastated when it all got scrapped due to Covid but my experience with the Giants Academy was amazing and I honestly could not fault anything about it, I loved every second of it.”

This is only made sweeter when you reflect on the fact that she nearly pulled the plug on her football just two years prior to this standout season—but there is still one major fact about her time with GWS that we are yet to mention.

As we have stated before, Lauren has been a part of several inaugural sides and academies during her footballing journey. 2021 was no exception as she made history by becoming the Captain of the Giants Under-19s Academy.

It’s such an honour to be a part of the inaugural team on its own but to be named Captain was such a surprise and gave me such a confidence boost and reminded me that I deserved my place on the team just like everyone else.”

To be written in the history of the Giants Academy Women’s Program is so so so amazing and I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience.”

2021 also saw Lauren’s footballing journey enter a new chapter at club level, as she joined the AFL Canberra based Belconnen Magpies which “was a big change but it has been super rewarding”.

“Belconnen took me in without any questions and made me feel right at home which was a really big benefit for me as I had just moved states and didn’t know my way around or really anyone at all.”

“But the club culture is an absolute blast at Belconnen, and everyone is super welcoming on and off the footy field.

I’ve developed a lot with Belconnen as I adapted to more country style footy compared with Sydney’s city type footy which was certainly a challenge but has improved my footy dramatically which has also come from the constant motivation handed to me by my coach Bobby who has never given up on me no matter how bad of a day I was having.”

So, what is the next chapter for this highly promising leader?

It is amazing to think about how far Lauren has come since she began playing, and how much she has developed into a player with so much exciting potential.

Yet, the football world almost did not have this wonderful character, as we mentioned earlier she passed on the idea of playing originally, and she nearly stopped playing altogether during 2019.

What kept her going was her love of the game, mixed in with her own dedication and drive to push to be the best she could be. But of course, she also had some great support behind her.

“Obviously all my coaches have helped me come a long long way but I owe a lot to Scott Smith our Strength and Conditioning Coach from Giants.”

“He helped tremendously with helping me find my feet down here in CBR, but he’s been involved in my footy since the under-16s state team and has never given up on me and has always pushed me to my best.

“And obviously my family has made huge sacrifices for my footy and I am so appreciative of them, especially my dad who took me to all my trainings every week and interstate games without fail and is always watching my Canberra games at home in Sydney.”

With an impressive football background backing her up as well as some great support, this young leader has set her sights on making the next level.

“I definitely want to take my footy to the highest level possible with VFL and AFLW lists in my short term and long-term goals.”

“But ultimately, I just want to keep enjoying my footy and doing what I love most with the people I love most.”

Her footballing journey so far has been nothing short of spectacular and, with this overwhelming love for the game, we are certain that she will continue to impress at doing what she loves.

But with have the suspicion that, just like in 2019, there is something special in store for her just around the corner.

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Article #191

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

None of these photographs is owned by MWM; all images have been supplied by the player and were personally took.

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