They say she has the best pair of hands in the AFLW and it’s no surprise given Jasmine Garner’s use of them off the field.
Garner, who on Friday will be lining up in the Collingwood forward line almost a year to the day since she kicked the first ever AFLW goal, spent last season juggling her footy commitments with work as an apprentice landscaper.
Anyone in the industry will tell you that the work is tough and by the time Garner finished footy training at 10pm, the fatigue had well and truly set in.
“I’d go to work and slave through a hot day, and by the time I got to footy training, it felt like I’d already been through a massive workout,” Garner told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“In the end it became too much.”
Garner did what she had to do, she didn’t know any different, but wasn’t sure if it was affecting her abilities on the field. All she knew was that she was tired.
Her boss was as accommodating as possible but some days were spent almost entirely shovelling or on her knees planting — her body took a hammering during the day and on the track at night.
In the end, Garner knew she had to move on so she quit and started working casually for AFL Victoria.
The 20-year-old believes there’s no correlation between her marking prowess and her manual labouring work — it might be in her DNA.
“My friends say I have really big hands so that probably helps,” she laughs.
“They also get a bit sweaty at times, not only if I’m nervous, I just have sweaty hands, which may help grip the ball. My overhead abilities have always been my strongest asset.”
It’s easy to trace Garner’s love for the Sherrin.
She grew up in Yarraville and spent the majority of her time kicking the footy in the street with her cousins, with their jumpers substituting for goalposts.
Luckily, cars rarely interrupted their kicks — she lived in a quieter backstreet — but it was a neighbour who stopped play one evening and suggested they join the Yarraville Junior Football Club.
That’s when things started to kick off for the young forward.
Garner excelled, representing Victoria in the under-16s and 18s before a period where footy slipped down her list of priorities and her enjoyment suffered.
Like many maturing, young adults, other things became more important and footy fell by the wayside.
“Around 2014 and 2015, I’d been playing footy for so long and I had other commitments. I never stopped playing, it always felt right to keep playing, but I didn’t take it as seriously as I had previously.
“I was playing at the Premier Division level, as it was known at the time, but wasn’t trying to get anything extra out of it. I was just showing up to training each week and playing because I had friends down there.
“The social side of the game I enjoyed and that probably kept me there. I played because it was routine and didn’t enjoy it as much as I had previously.”
Cue the 2016 women’s exhibition game at the Whitten Oval between Melbourne and the Bulldogs, where Garner’s St Kilda Sharks teammate, Moana Hope, put on a show with a match-winning six goals.
The game inspired Garner to get more out of herself. With the new competition on the horizon, she could see the opportunity becoming real and it was time to get her act together.
A month of hard work led to Garner being drafted by the Magpies, alongside Hope, and one of the biggest moments of her life came soon after — kicking that goal on the Ikon Park turf.
The history-making goal, and the AFLW season as a whole, has changed the course of Garner’s life but the usually quiet and shy youngster is becoming accustomed to the attention.
“Sometimes I get introduced as ‘Jasmine Garner, who kicked the first ever AFLW goal’,” she said.
“The day after that Friday night last year, I went into a café to get a coffee and the guy working there asked if I was the one who kicked the first goal and actually shook my hand so I can’t complain about it — it’s pretty cool. My family and friends love and get around it. It’s something I’ll never forget.
“That was the first year so hopefully I’ll be known as something more in the seasons to come and become more than just a one-kick wonder.”
She had another decent year in the VFLW as well, where, in the absence of Hope, she led the Sharks forward line, booting 32 majors in 14 games.
Garner describes 2017 as the best year of her life but she identified a need to improve, which meant finding a less physically demanding job and becoming fitter.
She’s lost a few kilos to get up and down the ground more efficiently and Collingwood skipper Steph Chiocci has cryptically said that Garner has added “an extra something” to her game and identified her as one to watch out for in 2018.
But the Kingsville resident is focusing on playing her role for the side and this time the calluses on her hands represent her hard work in the gym as opposed to a summer in the harsh Australian sun.