This article was published on 26 October, 2017
It took only 15 games for Jodie White to impress the Dockers.
White, a 37-year-old materials scientist who took two years off from football, returned to her Coastal Titans in 2017 and showed no lingering effects from her extended break.
In fact, her form went in the opposite direction, claiming the WAWFL league best and fairest award at season’s end, which led to the Dockers selecting the ruck in the 2017 AFLW draft and making White one of the oldest draft picks in AFL history.
With her career entering a new phase, White’s story is a remarkable one considering she initially had no intentions of playing when pulling on the boots in a few of the Titans’ pre-season training sessions.
“I went along to a few sessions thinking that even if I didn’t play, it’ll keep the fitness up,” White old AFLPlayers.com.au.
“But once I got back, I started to enjoy it again and thought that as long as I’m fit and healthy, I might as well keep playing.
Reinvigorated, White’s footy career has reached new heights a mere 13 years after it began at the age of 24.
After relocating with her young family to Port Hedland, 13,000km north of Perth, she didn’t know if she was ever going to play again but missed the camaraderie of the sport she grew up loving.
While being drafted in the AFLW system was the furthest thing from her mind seven months ago, White admits she watched on as a few of her former teammates represented their clubs on the big stage.
“It wasn’t a motivating factor as such. I watched a lot of the women’s games and it was in the back of my mind but more around how it’d be great if I had the chance. I didn’t think it would eventuate,” White added.
“I don’t know if jealousy is the right word. I certainly wished it happened 10 years ago and maybe I could’ve been out there as well. I was more in awe of how far the game had come even in the two years since I left. The game has improved even more — it’s quicker, fitter and harder at the contest. There might’ve been a bit of jealously, I guess.”
Coming back after a her two-year layoff, White knew her age and the game’s progress meant she needed to improve to keep up with the younger, faster and more skillful players.
The standards had lifted but so had White’s enthusiasm for the game and her motivation was at an all-time high at the beginning of 2017.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to come back so I put in a lot of work during the pre-season. I’d been watching the game so I was expecting a lot better skill and fitness and it was certainly that.
“When I played last time, I probably didn’t love training as hard as I did when I came back. I trained hard previously, but coming back, I put in that extra bit of effort to get my level to where everyone else was at and I think that helped.”
White didn’t expect to have the season she did, she only wanted to keep up. The six-time premiership player with the Titans now has a chance to live out the dream she had from her time kicking the footy around in the park with her brother.
She’s always loved the physicality and the excitement of footy, which was enhanced when watching the likes of Guy McKenna, Gerard Neesham and Don Pyke running around for Claremont as a child.
Now two decades later, her five-year-old twin boys, Josh and Lucas, will have the chance to watch their mum do the same. And despite being older than every one of her AFLW peers, White is primed for her crack at the big time.
“The two years off did me some good, it gave the body a rest and some time to focus on family. I’m in a better head space now than a few years ago.”