“I THINK it has reached that tipping point. It probably reached that point 18 months ago.”
If there’s anyone who knows the pressures and perils of combining AFLW football with work away from the game, it’s Kerryn Harrington.
Harrington has been a Game Changer since season two, and skipper of the Club since the beginning of 2020 (and sole captain this year). Sport has been a part of Harrington’s life for a long time, having played over 150 games in the WNBL before crossing to Australian rules football.
But while we’re well and truly accustomed to Harrington’s standout talent on the football field, the dual All-Australian combines her complete dedication to her craft with her time as a physiotherapist.
Speaking to SEN Breakfast on Monday morning following her stellar Round 2 showing, Harrington shed some light on what her week entails, and just how demanding the rigours of AFLW football can be.
“Each season, the expectation on the players continues to grow - as it should - towards a fully professional league. The challenge for the players which is ongoing, and it becomes harder and harder every year, is the balance between having a professional job outside of football and trying to reach the commitments and expectations that the football world holds,” Harrington said.
“To be quite honest, the players are squeezed to the absolute max at the moment.
“Every year, we say it gets harder and harder and that tipping point is very, very close. We’re already seeing players having to choose between their careers and playing football.
“The joy of playing football and the novelty of football I don’t think will ever wear off. I think if you ask a group of men’s players, they would feel the same.”
Asked by former AFL Crow and Cat Josh Jenkins about footballers’ lives away from the game, Harrington said she could only speak for the playing group she knew.
She confirmed that all 30 players on the list have commitments away from the game, whether it be work or study.
Personally, working close to 20 hours a week as a physio, combined with the ever-increasing demands that the game offers up.
For Harrington, pulling on the Navy Blue jumper which she used to wear in the stands on Royal Parade as a kid was an unattainable dream which all of a sudden became real. It’s an opportunity she said she was never going to take for granted.
However, she acknowledged that it’s not without its challenges.
“It certainly is [a challenge], but it doesn’t take away from the joy of playing football,” she said.
“We’re already training like we’re fully professional. We spend close to 20-25 hours a week [at the club], so we’re not far off.
“The difference is we’re also having to work somewhere between 30-40 hours outside of that to maintain our lives. It’s difficult, particularly with the times at the moment and things chopping and changing.”
That chopping and changing could yet throw a further spanner in the works across the competition, with postponed games potentially having to be made up mid-week.
Of course, the Blues had their clash with the Lions become a trip to Geelong with 48 hours’ notice. It’s a reality which is never too far away, for any of the 14 sides in the competition.
“Thankfully, the Brisbane trip - or the lack of the Brisbane trip - didn’t really throw us that much, but I wouldn’t like to be one of the teams that has to try and make up a game mid-week around our work schedules.”