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New board member and GWS Giants player Annalyse Lister spoke to about her football journey, why she nominated for the AFLPA board and the importance of player advocacy.

Firstly, congratulations on being elected to the AFL Players’ Board. Where did the desire to nominate come from?

I had a few different conversations with people and for me, personally, diversity on the board was really important. With Meg Downie retiring from her position, I really wanted to see another female representative take her place. So, I had chats with both AFLW players from the Giants and also throughout the League and their passion for equity in women’s sport and growing the AFLW was something that really stood out for me. I felt that with my experience outside of football I could hopefully make a difference and that lead me to nominate.

As you mentioned about diversity, this is one of the most diverse boards we’ve had. What’s it like to be nominated alongside players like Darcy Moore, Neville Jetta and Tom Jonas?

I haven’t had the opportunity to do any work with them yet but the thing that really stood out for me was seeing an Indigenous player nominated as well. I think it shows where society is at the moment and the fact that as an industry we really want to drive change and make differences compared to how things have been in the past. That’s really important and it also shows the values of the playing group as a whole who want to be inclusive to everyone irrespective of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or anything that might have caused a divide in the past.

GWS Giants defender Phil Davis has been a long-serving board member and was previously a delegate. What’s it like to have someone like him who you can bounce ideas off?

As I mentioned, I spoke to a few different people before I decided to nominate and Phil was one of them. It was really important for me to understand what my role was going to be and what it would require of me so I could really grasp the areas that I’d be able to make a difference. Phil was really encouraging and said it would be something worthwhile pursuing and that certainly gave me a bit of confidence and guidance going into the nomination process as well.

Like many of your fellow AFLW players you’re a cross-code athlete. What has your football journey looked like?

Coming across from hockey I feel like I have a similar story to a lot of AFLW players who didn’t grow up playing the sport. I remember watching the first season in 2017 and really enjoying the game so I decided to give it a crack and just to see how I would go. I couldn’t have envisaged that I would have been successful in landing on AFL list, at that point it was really just a dream. When I made the call to start playing women’s football, I went down to Darebin Falcons (VFLW), which seemed to be the Holy Grail of women’s football and playing alongside really inspiring players like Daisy Pearce and Lauren Arnell just demonstrated the level of talent that was floating around.

That experience really motivated me to initially try to get a kick, then get a game every week and eventually motivated me to make it to the next level. As someone who grew up playing a lot of elite level sport, and hockey probably doesn’t have the greatest backing outside of the Olympics, it was great to be part of a sport like football where you’re really playing for the fans and a community behind you. It’s not just about the enjoyment of the game – that was a new aspect for me.

It’s always interesting to chat to a cross-code athlete and really understand how their experiences from their previous sport differ compared to the AFLW. What’s that experience been like for you?

The one thing that’s really stood out is having a better understanding of who you’re lining up against. Football has so much more structure and systems that are in play and I think that’s really challenged the strategy of it all too. You have a bit more variety in your game.

In football, compared to hockey, you can impact the game even when you’re without the ball whereas hockey doesn’t really have that level of self-sacrifice. With that, comes a really strong sense of camaraderie amongst your teammates.

I’ll never forget attending my first training session where everyone was giving high fives after every single drill. I found it so weird and no matter how badly you went in the drill, your teammates were still celebrating you. To this day I still find that a bit weird, but it just goes to show how important that connection to your teammates is because you still support them even when they don’t have the ball.

When you’re not playing football you work in management at a physiotherapy company. What has your career taught you that you’re hopeful will support your tenure on the board?

In my journey to the Giants I’ve experienced a lot of really big life changes. Before I was drafted (in 2019), I was living and working full-time in Melbourne for my physiotherapy company in a role as a regional manager, but then the opportunity presented to move to Sydney. I’ve been really fortunate that they kept me on in a remote position and so now I’m working in a part-time capacity as a business support manager for them. The flexibility in my work gives me the chance to continue doing what I’m currently doing with football, but also studying my MBA as well. Studying has also helped me with a broader business understanding beyond my day-to-day role in people management.

As you begin your tenure what are you most looking forward to advocating for?

I think there is so much growth happening in women’s sport and the opportunity to represent my teammates and peers and really support them in developing the game is something I’m looking forward to. For the girls, one thing they’re really hoping for is a season where you have the opportunity to play everyone once and so for me, it’ll be about doing what I can to support that growth and development and put our female members in a position where they’re able to perform at their best.

You can only save so much with limited resources and time, and I think at the moment, girls are really stretching themselves to try to be able to spend much time on the track but also manage their finances outside of that.

You’re just the fourth female to be representing the board. What does that mean to you?

I’m always a bit lost for words with that. The players that have come before (Daisy Pearce, Meg Downie & Leah Kaslar) have been able to make a huge impact for women’s football and the game in general. I certainly don’t take my position on the Board lightly and to be only the fourth female member to be representing the playing group is something that I hold with high regard. I’m hoping I can put my best foot forward and advocate for changes not only in the women’s game but wherever required.

A big part of the AFLPA is player advocacy. How important is that to you?

People underestimate the role that the Players’ Association play in player advocacy. When you’re representing a collective of more than 800 male players and more than 300 female players not everyone is going to be able to have their say at the table so being able to understand what the group want and getting that balance right, because it’s always going to be a little bit different, is a difficult but critical task.

Thanks for your time, Annalyse. Good luck for the remainder of the season and as you embark on a new experience.

No worries, thanks Kavisha.