Tiffany Copley - from the Beach to the Footy Field
Updated: Aug 17, 2019
It takes a considerable amount of dedication and talent to be able to be accomplished at two separate sports.
However, it takes something special to be successful in two completely different sports.
Surf lifesaving and football; there doesn’t need to be a comparison to know that these two aren’t very similar.
To be able to be good at these two sports; it would mean learning new skills, new rules and just all-around hard work.
And for Tiffany Copley, that is exactly what she did.
“Well I was pretty awful at kicking when I began, so my partner, Shaun, spent many hours with me teaching me how to kick as well as helping me with lots of basic footy skills, which I’m extremely grateful for.”
Despite being “awful at kicking”, she did have a fair excuse. As she had spent most of her life being busy with surf lifesaving;
“I’ve done it ever since I was physically able. So, it was a massive part of my life and a big call to step away from a sport I spent everyday training for. I loved it so much and still love spending time at the club with my surf family and volunteering my time down there, but footy is where my focus is at now.”
“Travelling interstate with state teams and club teams for surf lifesaving was always so much fun.”
It takes a lot of courage to walk away from a sport that has been a big part of your life, let alone being a sport that you’re pretty good at as well.
However, for Tiffany it came down to;
“It was hard to balance both competing interstate for surf lifesaving and playing football at the same time, but I soon realised how much I loved footy and didn’t want to stop.”
Still, it would have been a hard decision, especially considering;
“A bronze medal at the Australian championships was probably my best achievement.”
This achievement is, to this day, one of her favourite memories from her sports career which is why she remembers it like it was only yesterday;
“I had won the champion lifesaver event at state level multiple years in a row; which involves an accumulation of almost all the events in surf lifesaving. Yet I had never won a medal once it came to the national competition.”
“My sister won a gold medal in the event at nationals a few years earlier and it was a major goal of mine to win a medal in it too. The year that she decided not to compete in the event at state level, I was able to take out the gold in both my age group (U17) as well as the Open age group.”
“I then went on to compete in Queensland against the rest of Australia and unfortunately didn’t follow in my sister’s steps exactly, but I still did win a medal, which was a very proud achievement for me.”
A few years later and she would end up with a football premiership medal around her neck.
However, despite switching surf lifesaving for football, two sports that are “extremely different”, it wasn’t completely new for the humble athlete;
“Luckily I was still able to try lots of other sports when I was growing up, especially through school.”
Most notable and remarkable;
“I played basketball in primary school but when I got to high school, they only offered a netball program which I just thought I may as well try out for and ended up being in the College Academy for all five years of my high schooling.”
And even back in high school her talent was recognised;
“Being tall, reasonably coordinated and with my fitness from lifesaving, I was sort of roped into every sport when I was in high school; so, I ended up playing netball, volleyball, touch footy and a few other sports in school competitions throughout the years.”
This mixture of sports during high school would undoubtedly prove beneficial for Tiffany’s football career. Providing her with experience of key aspects of the game while also helping her build a unique skillset.
High school also provided her with her first football experience; which helped shape her future ambition.
“I first got a taste for footy when I was asked to play in the knockout competition for school when I was in year 10. From then on, I loved it and really wanted to play it but didn’t know where to go so I tried to start a team at Reynella. At the time, they couldn’t facilitate the team, and then a year later, one of the coaches from McLaren suggested I try there, and the rest is history.”
Playing for the McLaren Football Club last year; it marked her first season of club football and the experience she had gained through high school paid off instantly;
“I started at club level in the ruck because, fittingly, I was the tallest and could jump because of my history in volleyball so it only made sense.”
While also at McLaren’s, she got some much needed and much appreciated guidance;
“My coach at McLarens has had a massive impact on me as a football player and also as a person. He has pushed me to my best ever since I stepped foot on the footy field. Even though I’m not playing in the McLaren colours anymore, he still comes to watch my games, and frequently gets in contact with me to see how I’m tracking and to give me feedback on how I can improve my game.”
Narrowly missing out on the premiership that season; her talent was recognised and rewarded with a spot-on South Adelaide’s senior female squad.
However, once she was there, she “was no longer the biggest or strongest out there” and therefore had to find a new playing position.
“Rick thought I would be best as a centre half back player with my height and fitness, which was great.”
However, when she returned from injury mid-way through the season, she found it very hard to make it back into Souths backline.
Luckily, Tiffany’s valuable experience meant she had developed an immense skill set which then allowed her to practically play wherever she was needed.
“I’m happy to play where they need me most because I think that every position brings on different challenges.”
Due to this fact;
“Rick thought I would be handy out on the wing which is where I stayed for the rest of the season and I loved it there.”
Not only did she love playing there, but she also performed brilliantly and consistently on the wing for the rest of the season.
Gathering 49 disposals in seven games; she also finished the season with a 100% scoring accuracy.
She picked the best time to kick her first and only SANFLW goal for this season; kicking truly in the semi-final which would ultimately prove to be the eventual game winning goal.
“Nothing can really beat winning a SANFLW premiership.”
And that whole SANFLW season is best described by the wholesome player herself;
“It was amazing. I mean what’s better than winning a premiership? Well… winning it with a group of girls that you absolutely love of course. It was way better than I ever expected. The team was incredible and so supportive, and the competition was so competitive but also so much fun. It really pushed me as an individual to step up to the challenges and bounce back from the setbacks. I really learnt a lot about myself because of it.”
If her impressive sports career wasn’t enough, Tiffany is also busy making a career off the field;
“I’m currently in my third year of studying Psychology at Flinders university. In between, I work part time at a car hire company and I also help coach the middle school girls football team at Immanuel College.”
And going forwards for the talented Tiffany; she is 100% interested in taking her coaching career further as well;
“I’m currently helping out Skully with the U17s development program as the midfield coach. I did a fair bit of coaching with the juniors at the surf club and I love watching them develop and improve so it’s definitely something I’d love to pursue.”
With accolades in surf lifesaving and a pretty impressive football resume, considering she has only been playing for two seasons; the sky is the limit for Tiffany, not just for football but also in coaching and her profession. Thanks to her kind nature, strong mindset and her incredible level of dedication and passion.