• Jayden J Bartlett

Willow Homersham - Footy's Ups & Downs

Updated: Aug 11, 2019

Imagine being in a very exciting and promising part of your career only to have it seemingly ripped away from you due to an injury.

It would be devastating to say the least. Facing months of rehab and time spent watching from the sideline; most would probably just hang up their boots and call it quits.

However, it would take more than that to stop Willow Homersham.

Willow by her own admission; hasn’t played football for that long considering she began playing back in 2017.

However, what a year it was for the young talent as she instantly made an impact;

“In that year I had many highs; making the under 15 school sport SA team, being asked to join the Crows Development Program and I began my journey at Sturt in the under 17’s program.”

She also began playing at a local level;

“I also played at my local club blackwood when it didn’t clash with basketball.”

And if that wasn’t enough; Willow’s first year of football also saw her work with an SANFLW club which undoubtedly helped progress her development;

“That summer Sturt invited me out to train with them in their inaugural SANFLW season, the season came with many new learning experiences it taught me not only things about playing football but things like recovery, strength and conditioning and nutrition which was great for me to learn as such a young and new player to the sport.”

That was only the beginning for Willow; as her hard work was continually recognised and rewarded with more opportunities;

“In 2018, I was still a part of the Crows Development Academy and had been selected in the under 16’s SANFL state team as well as being at Sturt again for the 17’s program. Whilst captaining my local club Blackwood’s under 16 team and going on to win the premiership!”

During this time, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the promising player;

“I had my little ups and downs with a couple of little injures and a major one being a fairly big concussion I sustained in the state game.”

However, she stayed strong and managed to dodge any serious injuries until heartbreakingly;

“In late September early October, I quite badly injured my back having MRI’s and lots of physio and rehab work done. This kept me out for about eight months; going all through pre-season and most of the SANFLW season for Sturt which I had been asked back for.”

Suffering an injury to the lumbar disc is terrible enough without having a serious injury at young age.

While her career was on the rise, this was understandably devastating for Willow;

“This took a big toll on me physically as well as my mental health; I struggled to see the point in doing all these things if it wasn’t feeling like it was getting better and it was hard watching my team mates out on the field every week when you know you can’t be out there.”

Not only did the injury leave her out of the game she loved; but also impacted her time with Sturt;

“I was pushing toward playing hopefully one game in the season and I had gotten back into training but in the end, I just wasn’t good enough to be picked.”

Being sidelined for an extended period of time also saw a follow-on effect to her other teams;

“The injury also carried through to the under 18 state trials and I was cut first round from the squad, I was also not asked back to the Crows for the new development program they had.”

To be in a very exciting part of her football career and then to seemingly have it ripped away from her was extremely hard for the humble player;

“This was all very hard for me as I had never been affected by such a significant injury before and I didn’t know how to handle it.”

However, Willow wasn’t ready to just roll over and let the game she loved slip away from her.

She began the difficult path through rehab;

“It was hard; lots and lots of squats one legged, exercises to strengthen my glutes and quads, running technique exercises, planks for my core strength, resistance band arm exercises.”

Even while doing rehab; Willow was desperate to just get back out onto the field;

“Rehab was tough it was a lot of hard work and not a lot of result I thought. I’m sure it did good things for me, but I like to be able to see it too keep me motivated to keep going. It got very hard to deal with not being out there and being separated from the group from so long because of it.”

However, while she was going through a very tough and foreign experience. She didn’t go through it alone as she had great people who supported her it all;

“I had my best friend in the team, some really close friends, family and of course the two amazing Sturt physio’s Kelly Roberts ( or as I and the girls in the team call her, Mum) and Elise Dawes that weren’t just physio’s; they were incredibly encouraging, supportive and just two overall amazing people that really got me through a lot of it as well as my best friend and other friends from the team.”

“They just always told me to never give up and that it was going to be ok. This is just one set back and it may have impacted quite a few things in your football journey this year but it’s just one year and I’m so young.”

And they are correct; Willow is still young with many more bright years of football ahead of her.

And instead of sitting around feeling sorry for herself; she has been busy getting back into that fine form and enjoying the game she loves;

“At the moment, it’s all about getting back into the swing of things hopefully making state next year and having a better SANFLW season and we will see how it goes from there.”

“Right now; I don’t hope to become an AFLW player, I just hope to keep improving and having fun.”

Thankfully and respectfully; Willow has made a successful return to football and is currently rebuilding herself back up to that impressive standard;

“I’ve moved from blackwood up to Mt Lofty to play div one women’s with them and it’s been great for me; I’m definitely learning a lot and trying to get back to where I was before."

“I’m getting there definitely not completely back to it yet but I’m working my way up and I’m playing regularly which is good.”

What she loves most about the game that she refuses to give up;

“I think it’s just everything the physicality the skills you need to develop to be good at it no matter what position you play on the field.”

“The environment around football clubs is also another thing I love it’s so different from another sports I’ve been involved it’s so close knit and I have made so many close friends and learnt many things from all the coaches I’ve had! It a very positive environment it’s great!”

With that in mind; her love of the game coupled with some great people who helped her through her recovery;

“I’d like to obviously thank Kelly Roberts (Mum) especially, Elsie Dawes, my family and my best friend Hannah Prenzler for helping me get through everything I had to go through to be where I am now.”

So, thanks to Willow’s great passion for the game along with the great people that surround her; women’s footy still has a great character who has overcome the odds and will continue to develop and impress for many more years to come.

She has a great piece of advice for all those who may one day have the odds stacked against them;

“I think to just keep your head up; keep striving to get better it will take a lot of hard work and determination, but you will come out the other side stronger physically and mentally.”

“Having a great support group is also really important; it can be very hard to stay positive but having the right people around you will make it a whole lot easier. And lastly Never give up if you want something sometimes you must work your ass off to get it!”

All this just goes to show that not only is Willow a good and dedicated player; but she’s also an extremely strong and passionate person. Something she will continue to be as her career returns to the same bright path as before.

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