Meghan Gaffney - the Tassie Trailblazer
Over the past five years, Meghan Gaffney has been working hard to carve a promising path in football and it is certainly showing results as she has grown into an exciting Tasmanian prospect.
Beginning her football journey while women’s footy in Tasmania was still in its infancy, Meghan has split her football commitments between playing local footy with Ulverstone and playing NAB League Girls footy with the Tasmanian Devils.
Originally, however, prior to football Meghan’s sporting life consisted primarily of soccer.
“I started playing soccer when I was 10 before footy started up here locally. When I was 13, I played in an all-boys team for my club, as there was no youth girls’ team at the time.”
“This was definitely a different experience, but it really helped me with the physicality piece.
“After three or four years, I then played in the senior women’s state league team and played in that again the following year.
“I’m still currently playing a couple of games whenever I can, but definitely now, my main focus is footy.”
Although she cannot “really remember” how she became interested in football, all she does know is that “as soon as I started I loved it”.
“Female footy here was pretty new when I was of age to play, I think only a short season had been offered the year before I started.”
“This meant that when one of my friends asked if I wanted to play because they were, I didn’t hesitate in saying yes to something new and exciting.
“My dad also really supported me in playing as he’s always played and loved local footy.
“Also, because it was a new sport to most females here, the environment created was really supportive and encouraged both individual and team growth; something I really appreciated as someone with no footy experience.”
Coming from a soccer background, the young Tassie prospect quickly fell in love with her new sport and embraced football, going as far as to say that “the best thing about playing footy is the family atmosphere”.
“Personally, it feels different from other sports for some reason, which is something really special.”
“I love that there’s such a range of different people that you can create friendships with, and then come together as a team on game day to show what you’ve been working towards.
“Also just having the chance to play a more physical team sport is really fun.”
It was within this family atmosphere that Meghan began to rapidly develop and, along with Ulverstone, she quickly started to find success.
During the five years that she has been playing, Meghan has played in four premierships with the Ulverstone under-17 girls’ team and was even the captain of the 2020 premiership side.
“The club has been really successful, especially in our under-17 girls’ team who have remained undefeated since the competition here started.”
“Our women’s team this year has also followed their footsteps and improved heaps over the last couple of years and have yet to lose a game this season.
“The club has been really supportive of the female teams here, as well as the men’s, which I think is one of the reasons we’ve been so successful.
“We’ve created such an inclusive, fun and hardworking atmosphere over the years, which has been a big motivator for us all to get to training, whilst contributing to the massive growth of the standards of female football. I’ve really loved being involved with the club.”
As well as these premierships, Meghan also claimed the Ulverstone 2020 Best in Finals award and the 2020 Ulverstone Best and Fairest.
This standout 2020 season was hinted at during the 2019 season, as Meghan managed to finish runner-up to the 2019 Ulverstone Best and Fairest and claim the 2019 League Best and Fairest.
While Meghan has certainly managed to make an impressive resume within local football; for the past two years, she has also been making moves within the NAB League Girls competition.
After her impressive displays in local footy got her noticed by the Tasmanian Devils, Meghan went onto don the green, red and yellow—where she has since become a consistent performer, albeit with a few disruptions to her debut season because of the pandemic.
“I loved playing with the Devils this year. It was so rewarding for us all with the development and progress we made over a year - going from getting beaten by a fair bit in the two games we played in 2020, to winning 6 out of 8 games this year gone.”
“The atmosphere and bonds created by the whole team, players and coaches, was something really unique for a state-wide team and I think that strong bond we created helped us succeed throughout the season.
“Training and playing with the best players from the state, who are always willing to keep improving whilst pushing others to be the best they can be also, is something I really enjoyed - but also creating the best friendships and memories with girls from all over the state.
“It’s something really special which I’m so grateful that I could be a part of.”
After only getting to play the two NAB League Girls games during 2020 before the league was suspended, her 2021 performance saw her average 14 disposals and 3 tackles a match from the 9 games that she played.
This not only highlighted her own individual development but also coincided with the Devils major improvement throughout the 2021 season.
“… One of the best moments though, would be winning our first game of the season for Devils, after coming out as the underdogs from last season, it was such a high that really gave us all an exciting outlook for the rest of the 2021 season.
“With that also comes the whole experience of being selected in the Allies team, and then on a club level - getting to captain a premiership side and being able to see the hard work of the team, turn to growth in skills and confidence, and ultimately winning us the flag.”
The 2021 season, which has arguably been her best yet, was of course topped off perfectly with an appearance in the Eastern Allies side during the 2021 NAB AFLW U19 Championships which “was such an amazing and rewarding experience”.
“… Although at first, it was challenging to meld together as a team, with only a couple days of getting to know the others from NSW and NT before our first game, by the end of the week we had connected really well, all learning and growing from each other.”
“Being around teammates who were like-minded and want to continue progressing with footy, having a coaching staff that was really knowledgeable and wanted the best for each of us, whilst also having the opportunity to play against some very talented players from around the state.
“It was something really special, and I’m really thankful to have experienced it.”
Considering that she has progressed from local footy to NAB League, and then to state representative footy, all within just five years of strapping on the boots for the first time—it is certainly an impressive sign.
However, while she has the drive to continue to develop and improve her own game, she has also been lucky enough to have some really great support behind her throughout her football journey.
“Both mum and dad have been really supportive through all my time playing footy.”
“I have four sisters, so it was pretty busy, but they were still able to drive me around to trainings when I didn’t have my license and be really supportive of every small success, so there’s a massive thanks to give to them.
“Dad especially through the previous covid lockdown was a big help, keeping me motivated and having a kick with me when I needed someone.
“So many other people though, coaches, family and friends, have had a really big impact on where I am today, so I can’t thank any of them enough for all the support and help, whatever it may be for.”
So, what is the next chapter in this promising Tasmanian Trailblazer's story?
Her main goal is “just to continue growing and play the best level of footy I can really”.
“For me, like probably a lot of others, I’ve been working on my skills—so being able to collect and deliver the ball effectively whilst under the pressure of the game, comes as naturally as it does in practice.”
“Playing AFLW would be such an amazing experience so obviously would be the ideal goal, but as long as I’m continuously growing and enjoying the game, I think that’s the most important part for me.”
We have mentioned this a number of times already, about how she has managed to progress rather far in football within just five years of playing, but it is certainly worth mentioning.
And although 2021 has certainly been her best year of football so far, the best part is that there are many more exciting years to come for this exciting Tasmanian prospect.
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None of these photographs is owned by MWM; all images have been supplied by the player and were personally took.