• Jayden J Bartlett

Lauren Clifton - the Debutant

"I would say to not be afraid to give it a crack. If you’re a bit afraid, that’s totally normal! Just go out and have a go because it can lead anywhere. I never expected to be where I am today, so there’s no harm in trying!"

Round one is always a special time on the football calendar, not just because it is the first time in what feels like ages that we get to see our beloved teams, but also because, more often than not, it is the first time that we get to see a range of new debutants.

And on this occasion, the round one of the SANFL Women’s competition gave us our first look at young South Adelaide product, Lauren Clifton.

But despite the game itself coming down to the wire, the youngster from the Willunga Football Club looked at home.

“Making my debut was very nerve-racking. I felt extremely nervous the whole day leading up to it. When we finally stepped onto the field I suddenly didn’t feel as nervous as before.”

“Other than that, it was such a cool experience being able to play with the girls and know that they were so supportive.”

While round one of the SANFLW was probably one of the first times that most supporters had heard the name Lauren Clifton, it was by far the first time that she had ran out onto the footy field.

And this is because, around three or four years ago she began playing with the Willunga Demons, and even before that she “was in one of the first South girls’ teams”.

But as for how this humble player got interested in football to begin with, well we may never know for sure, but at least we can still be thankful that she decided to play in the first place.

“I can’t remember exactly why I got interested. I know that my PE teacher at the time said I should give it a go, so I guess that’s what got me started and I have loved it ever since.”

But as for what it was about the game that she fell in love with, has continued to do so ever since.

“I think that I just love having the freedom to run around and be a part of a team. I reckon that the part I enjoy most is having a team that has your back when you go for a goal, or even when you are just running down a player.”

So, after falling in love with football, she decided to join the earlier mentioned, Willunga Football Club.

“I love Willunga. It is my home club, and I have played netball and started my football journey there. The people there are like my family and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”

However, while Lauren was busy impressing at club level, she was also busy performing for South Adelaide’s junior sides. With 2019 marking her first season with the Panthers U17s and fittingly, she ended up playing in their Premiership that same year.

“It was so much fun! The group of girls were awesome and to play in any Grand Final is such a privilege. The mood is so much different to any other game and it was just so enjoyable.”

As impressive as all of this sounds, it is these same performances that got her recognised and rewarded with arguably her biggest achievement so far, with the exception of maybe her SANFLW debut.

And this achievement came last year when Lauren represented South Australia in the U16s State Team.

“We beat Victoria for the first time, so that was a pretty big achievement.”

And “it was amazing! It was so much fun to be able to train with one group of girls and travel to Mt Gambier. When we won against Victoria it was such an awesome feeling knowing that all our hard work paid off”.

With a playing career like this, it wasn’t that much of a surprise that Lauren got brought up into South Adelaide’s senior women’s squad for the 2020 SANFLW season.

And thanks to her time spent playing with Willunga’s senior women’s side in the GSFLW, it made the transition a little smoother.

“I didn’t find it too much different. Since I have played in the women’s team at Willunga for a couple of years I suppose I’m used to being around an older group.”

However, “I have noticed that the knowledge of the seniors is much higher than the juniors though”.

As she currently is one of the youngest players in South Adelaide’s senior squad, it is no surprise for her that “making the South Women’s Team has been amazing”.

“It has been so cool! I have found that it’s quite different to being in the development groups because it’s more challenging and at a higher level.”

“Other than that, I love the group of girls in the squad and the coaches always want you to get better.”

And with passion and dedication like this, it shows why she managed to play so well during her debut game.

Because, despite being one of the youngest on the field, she managed to collect 12 disposals, six marks and three tackles, which is a very solid performance to say the least.

But despite the very bright path Lauren has managed to carve in football, she still hasn’t forgotten about those who have helped her reach this point.

With thanks going to “everyone that has helped me get where I am today. My family have always had a massive impact and all of the coaches I have had have made footy fun”.

So, what is next for this extremely promising Panther?

“At the moment I’m just taking it day by day. Hopefully I get to play a couple games in the South women’s team. That’s my main goal I suppose. It would be cool to play in the AFLW one day though.”

While she is a very talented player, she is still considerably young, so if she continues to put in the hard work and with the guidance of South Adelaide’s senior staff, she will undoubtedly continue to develop even further.

And while round one of the SANFLW was probably one of the first times that most supporters had heard the name Lauren Clifton, if she can continue to put on performances similar to that of her debut one, well it certainly wont be the last time we hear her name.

Article #103

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#WatchTheWomen #SANFLW #SouthAdelaide #SouthProud

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