Winnie Buckley: a rising star of the Northern Knights
Suwindi ‘Winnie’ Buckley, 16, has the makings to become something special. She possesses many great qualities: she is hard, tough, passionate, and humble. But above all else, she is willing to attack the footy.
It is her tackling ability and her hunger for the contest, that make her truly stand out. It is an often-overlooked trait. Sure, a player can be taught to tackle: but showing a willingness to tackle, and to tackle well, at this age – well that’s what can set the special prospects apart from the good ones.
In Winnie’s debut NAB League season – a time when most would be a little hesitant to get amongst the action – she was busy wrapping up her opponents with great tackles. And not just once or twice a game either – no, certainly not. On average, she would lay 10 tackles a match during the 2022 season.
“I think it's the main part of my footy instinct: I don't really think about it, it just happens,” Winnie said when asked about her tackling ability. “I never really realised before this season in NAB League how important it is to my game.”
This extraordinary and tackle-filled first season of NAB League footy has been 5 years in the making for Winnie. Having spent 4 years playing at Fitzroy, and a year playing with the under-12s at the Darebin Falcons – she has had a fair amount of footy experience that has helped shape her promising path.
And her willingness to get amongst the thick of the action has – as it was 5 years ago – been one of her favourite things about the sport. So, ever since she decided to strap on the boots because her local club invited her out: she has been a tough in-and-under footballer.
Being tough yet kind-hearted, skilful yet humble: it didn’t take long for this young Victorian prospect to get recognised. Having received multiple Best and Fairest awards – and having finished runner-up to her league’s 2021 Best and Fairest; it was no surprise that the Northern Knights selected her for their squad.
“So far it's been such a positive experience,” Winnie said when asked about the Knights. “It's really great to be a part a supportive and encouraging group of girls, especially when we all share a passion for footy and all want to push each other to achieve our goals.”
“The coaching staff have also been so amazing. They are all very dedicated to the growth of us girls on and off the field.”
And, after playing for their Futures side during the first 3 rounds, Winne was called up to make her NAB League Girls debut in Round 4 of the 2022 season.
“Obviously I was pretty nervous,” she said reflecting on her debut. “But all the girls were so incredibly supportive. It felt so amazing to be a part of the main squad. I was so grateful to be playing with such great teammates and an awesome group of coaches.”
Her debut game was a nervous yet defining moment. It was her first chance, after 5 years of football, to showcase her strengths within one of the highest tiers of football in Victoria. Nervous, excited, anxious, thrilled: all feelings that come with a debut game. These feelings linger as much as the self-asked question: what if I don’t play well?
After 5 years of football, it was Winnie’s time to display her skills: and she did exactly that. She finished with 9 tackles and 8 disposals. This debut game set an impressive theme for her first season. It was a season that saw her average 14 disposals and 10 tackles a game.
And, by the end of this impressive year, she had finished third in the Northern Knights Best and Fairest count and she had been crowned as the Knights’ 2022 Rising Star. This left a profound impact on the exciting prospect.
“I was over the moon,” she said about being crowned as the Rising Star. “I was so happy and very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the team.”
However, despite enjoying such a stellar debut season, Winnie isn’t resting. She is working hard and challenging herself to become better and to improve in all areas of her game.
“I guess if I continue to work hard then there will be rewards that come from that,” she said. “I just want to keep developing. I have a long way to go before getting drafted and there is a lot of work to be done.”
This dedication to continually work and improve is what makes her special. As much as she is an impressive in-and-under footballer that wracks up the tackles and has all the traits: skilful, humble, tough, hard. It is her mindset that makes her special.
As said earlier, tackling can be taught – but wanting to tackle comes from within; it is what makes a prospect special. And Winnie Buckley… well, she is a special prospect.
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The photograph has been kindly supplied by Winnie.