IF ever came down to a 100-metre footrace with their fathers, Olivia Madden and Esther Honybun would probably fancy themselves.
Putting to one side the obvious age discrepancies, Olivia and Ester are budding AFLW wingers – and Justin Madden and David Honybun, as former League ruckmen, aren’t remembered for their blistering speed off the first ten.
But the Carlton Football Club is now common to all four of them, with Olivia and Esther having recently committed as ‘train-ons’ to the Blues’ AFLW outfit under the League’s father/daughter rule.
With the rule dictating that a daughter is eligible to play for the club for which her father played a minimum one senior match, Olivia could also have pitched for Essendon; and Esther for Richmond – remembering that Justin represented Essendon in 45 senior appearance before embarking on his 287-game and dual Premiership Carlton career; and David turned out in 55 senior matches after managing five for the Blues.
But for Olivia, 23, and Esther, 21, it was always going to be Bluesville.
Said Olivia: “I’ve always supported Carlton and Dad played there a lot longer”.
Said Esther: “I was very impressed with Carlton’s ethos”.
Olivia’s and Esther’s sporting journeys have, until now taken them on vastly different tangents – Olivia’s by way of basketball, netball and (for the past two years) football at Aberfeldie; Esther’s exclusively by way of soccer.
“The interest in AFLW came pretty late,” Olivia conceded.
“Football was more of a hobby when I was younger but not something I thought of taking up because it wasn’t something I saw women do.
“Up until three years ago I was playing netball and basketball, but my brother Joel plays football at Aberfeldie and when the club established a women’s team in 2018 I decided to give footy a go.
"I really enjoyed the environment and in my second season the team defeated Keilor in the Grand Final, in what was a scrappy game but a terrific experience.
“Because I haven’t been playing long I still enjoy the freedom to run with the ball. And it’s pretty special to be at Carlton. It all feels a little bit surreal. Growing up I never have thought I’d be playing for the club, so it’s really exciting to be part of it.”
For Esther, the round ball held sway for her entire junior sporting career.
“When I grew up there was no real pathways with footy, and Dad, having done his back playing the game, always encouraged soccer over footy – and although I was a big Richmond supporter growing up I always loved soccer more.
“I played soccer for Alphington, then the Veneto Club in Bulleen and the national training centre in the Premier League, always as a defender. I was a bit of a battler.
“I played soccer all my life and only turned to football when I hit 18. I played for Darebin Falcons, but when I first nominated for the draft I wasn’t expecting anything because I needed development. I got a ‘train-on’ with Melbourne last year, but in the end I joined Carlton, and it’s worked out really well.”
Both women, who’ll represent Carlton’s VFLW team in 2021, are mindful of the challenges that will present themselves as relative newcomers to Australian Rules.
Olivia, an occupational therapist by profession, is measured in terms of her on-field expectations.
“I just want to develop as a player, build on my fitness and strength and my game sense,” she said.
“I broke my finger when the ball hit it at training a few weeks ago and it was a pretty bad break, but I’ll be back in four to six weeks and will see how I go.”
For Esther, a student in landscape architecture, it’s a case of “the longer I play the more I want from it”.
“The skills are something I need to work on, as I’m not quite there at AFLW level,” she said.
“As a daughter of a former League footballer it’s an advantage I don’t really like. Yes it’s an advantage to get a foot in the door, but I don’t want it to be the reason – and I’ve always struggled taking advice from my parents in sport, being a bit stubborn, even though I’ve appreciated Dad’s interest in me as I’ve got a bit older.
And don’t expect Olivia to run out in the old man’s famous moth-eaten No.44 either. As she advised: “the numbers only go up to 40”.
That said, both players appreciate the romance of the father/daughter rule. Perhaps Esther spoke for both players when she said: “The father/daughter rule is a great rule for the game, because Dad loves Carlton, he went to Melbourne Uni down the road and I love the whole suburb”.
“And I can’t wait for the mother-daughter rule either.”
Carlton General Manager – Women’s Football Brett Munro said the club was indeed fortunate to secure both Olivia and Esther “when there was plenty of interest from others”.
“Olivia has a really good step, is a good decision-maker and runs well. She is also a ‘lefty,” Munro said.
“Esther has elite speed and traits that can be further developed.”
Olivia Madden and Esther Honybun now join Abbie McKay (daughter of the 244-game Carlton Premiership half-back Andrew) at the club – and Munro urges any former player who has a daughter with a sporting interest to contact Shane O’Sullivan.