AUSTRALIAN RULES: Ex-Northshore junior Aasta O'Connor is itching to play in the inaugural AFL women's league next year and says the competition is a beacon for rising talents of the Sunshine Coast.
The 30-year-old will lace-up for Western Bulldogs in the eight-team competition, which will also feature the Brisbane Lions, in February and March.
She can't wait to start pre-season training next week, especially after spending the past year out of the game due to an ACL injury.
"So it's got an extra element (of excitement) for me,” she said.
O'Connor played a role in establishing the competition, as the AFL national female talent manager and she said it represented a crucial step in the expansion of the game.
"It's something that's never been done before...but it's going to be really good,” she said.
"The product that will be put out will be top notch and it's only going to get bigger and better as we go.
"It's all about the kids...those young girls that are playing on the Sunshine Coast, they can see the pathway, they can see the opportunities.
"If they train hard enough and put the right foot forward they'll reach the AFLW and that's amazing. That certainly didn't exist when I was a youngster.”
O'Connor lived on the Coast for 16 years, was schooled at Immanuel Lutheran College and played for the Jets.
She moved to Brisbane and then to Victoria and linked with the Darebin Falcons.
"To play in the highest comp possible I had to move to Melbourne but now girls can play at the highest level from their home state. That's really cool,” she said.
The AFLW finalised its pay structure last week, with a minimum wage of $8500 and with marquee players earning $27,000.
Packages are set to increase in 2018.
"In years to come it has the potential to be a fully-fledged professional career path for a young girl and that's really exciting but you've got to put the pillars in place,” she said.
"You need to make it a sustainable from the start.”
She believes the Bulldogs will be competitive.
"We've got some good height and flexibility...we're really looking forward to the challenge and are quietly confident about what we can do,” she said.
O'Connor's passion for the code runs deep.
"The game means everything to me, it shapes who I am as a person and I think footy will be a part of my life until the day I pass,” she said.
She returns to the Coast now and then. Her mother, Vicki, runs a fish and chip shop at Marcoola.
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