GWS Giants midfielder Renee Forth never considered herself a leader and it wasn’t until well into her adult life that she realised she wanted to be one.
Her mother called her the ‘Pied Piper’ because everyone seemed to follow her around but it took a premiership with her footy side at the end of 2015 to spur Forth’s motivation for responsibility.
Becoming a leader inspired her pursuit of a primary school teaching career. She has been studying full time while working at the Giants and recovering from the ACL tear that resulted in her missing out on the inaugural AFLW season.
“It took me a little while to realise and take responsibility to be a leader,” Forth told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“The main turning point was witnessing our footy side at the end of 2015 achieve a premiership and I wanted to captain my team to a flag.
“I wanted to take it more seriously. I was vice-captain before that but I wanted to take the next step.”
As well as studying, Forth has been working at the Giants three days per week and has set up her own business teaching the basics of footy to girls throughout New South Wales.
She’s also prevalent on the coaching front, where Forth has been part of the NAB AFL Youth Girls Academy.
These experiences made Forth an easy choice for the Education and Training Excellence Award, presented by La Trobe University, for 2017 at the AFL Players’ Association’s MVP Awards night alongside Carlton’s Ed Curnow.
Learning is part of the former electrician’s lifestyle and despite her schedule becoming compact at the best of times, the 30-year-old understands the value in seeking her opportunities as soon as possible.
“The main reason would be my age. I can’t look at playing footy as being my career,” Forth added.
“It won’t be full time while I’m playing and while I’m looking forward to getting out and playing, I’ve got to look out for what I’m going to do outside the game.
“I can’t just sit back and do nothing.”
Likewise is Forth’s award acquaintance Curnow, who has seen the other side of the industry after being cast aside by Adelaide after one year at the Crows in 2008.
It would be two years before Curnow would be selected by Carlton — which he describes as some of the more enjoyable years of his life — and believes players have nothing to fear when their careers finish if they have prepared.
“Seeing that side makes you appreciate the opportunity to be in the AFL system but it also allows me to be pretty content with what’s to come when I eventually finish up,” Curnow said.
“Life is pretty good without football and I feel confident things will work out when it’s all over.”
Like Forth, Curnow has also had a packed schedule in 2017.
Coaching commitments, work placement at a construction company and undertaking a Masters of Project Management — which takes up to four nights per week — has been the main ingredients in a hardworking year.
Curnow enjoys being busy and said it’s helped with an indifferent season on the field.
“Being in football and having to cope with the environment and stress that comes with it, to be able to meet people at university and speak to guys at construction sites creates a bit more of a supportive network outside of the industry itself.
“I had a bit of an up and down year, too, and found the best thing for me when I was injured was having full time study.”
Studying and learning has always been a part of Curnow’s life and with his first baby due early next year, his focus will soon switch to providing for his family.
And that’s the main reason the Carlton midfielder is keen to maximise the resources available to him at the present time.
“Where I’m at in my career, I’m 28 this year and have been in the game for a while now, I don’t want to go through the transition phase without feeling confident about being as skilled as I can be and using the resources available to me.”
La Trobe University have been a proud partner of the AFLPA for over three years. The La Trobe Sport management Program is the leading university program in the country.