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Morphett barreling toward a career in football

The AFLW has played host to many talented cross-code athletes, but Greater Western Sydney ruck Ally Morphett may be the first competitive barrel-racer to join the League.

One of five debutants for the Giants in Round 1 this year, the 18-year-old competed in the less than traditional sport prior to discovering her passion for playing football.

Morphett’s passion for barrel-racing sprouted from her upbringing around harness-racing horses on her family’s farm in Wagga Wagga.

“Barrel-racing is a rodeo event where you ride the horse around three drums in a particular pattern, whoever does it within the fastest time wins … it’s a very individual sport and a massive adrenaline rush,” she said.

Morphett has travelled all over the country for barrel-racing and even won the national title in the under 11-14 category in 2017.

Like many multi-sport athletes, the young ruck draws on honed skills from her experience in barrel-racing to give her an edge on the football field.

“Barrel-racing is an aggressive sport; it takes more of mental toughness than physical toughness. It’s pretty similar to footy in the way that it’s more of a mental game than just a physical one,” Morphett said.

Dominating a ruck contest is a similar achievement to controlling the movement of a horse, it requires not only strength, but also confidence in your movements and a competitive fierceness.

“You have to be aggressive because the harder you go in the less, you’re going to get hurt … like footy, it’s all about not holding back and just letting go,” she said.

Having confidence in yourself and your skills is a key component to many sports, however Morphett is open to adapting her game and consistently improving her ruck craft.

“Playing against solid opponents and being on the same team as one of the stronger rucks in the competition has really helped me. I’ve learnt so much in the short amount of time that I’ve been at the Giants” she said.

First picking up a footy for her school football side four years ago, Morphett finds inspiration in her on-field opponents.

Especially twin sisters Breann and Celine Moody, respective rucks at Carlton and the Western Bulldogs.

“My inspirations growing up and especially in my draft year were Breann Moody and her twin sister Celine. I’ve been fortunate enough to go up against Celine this season, it was a feeling like no other to go up against your idol,” she said.

“I’ve been told by a couple of former Carlton players that I play a similar game to Breann Moody and that’s probably the biggest compliment I’ve ever received before given that she’s the reigning All Australian ruck.”

A former member of the GIANTS Academy, Morphett is fast adapting to the demands of playing football professionally, having carved herself a spot in the Giants’ best 22 in her debut season.

Longevity and success are two goals that Morphett aims to reach in her AFLW career, but mainly she just wants to make her family proud by playing the sport they all share a love for.

“Footy was such a big part of my family growing up and [making it to the AFLW] was a massive roller-coaster ride,” she said.

“Mum and Dad would still be up at 2:00am doing work that they needed to catch up on because they had to take me to training or had to take me down to Melbourne for a game. I wanted to repay my parents by pushing myself and motivating myself even if I didn’t make it to the top level, just making them proud was the most important (thing).”

“Barrel-racing is a rodeo event where you ride the horse around three drums in a particular pattern, whoever does it within the fastest time wins … it’s a very individual sport and a massive adrenaline rush.” – Ally morphett

Striking a healthy balance between football and other aspects of her life, helps the first-year player to unwind and ensure that she is in the right mindset to play her best football.

“Back at home I just like to go out with the horses and take a breather from footy. When it comes to training and games it gets more serious, so I need to step back,” she said.

“I would 100 percent say that it’s a mental challenge to stop thinking about footy. Sometimes it sucks that I don’t have my horse with me because I honestly love just getting out and having a break. You need that healthy balance otherwise you’ll cook yourself.”

The freedom of running around the field with her teammates, whilst chasing the ultimate shared success, is what Morphett enjoys the most about the sport.

“The relationships and friends you make through footy they’re friendships that you’re going to have for years … I love the professionalism of the sport, moving to the Giants has been such a learning curve and I’ve loved every single moment of it” she said.