A group of 52 Australian women is set to go down in the country’s sporting history.
The women have been selected to play for Australia’s first ever national women’s gridiron team.
Defensive lineman Jasmin Collins says it is an achievement she never saw coming.
“I never thought I would ever represent my country in anything. I never thought that could be possible, especially for a female.”
The team will travel to Canada in June, where it will face off against national squads from around the world.
For defensive cornerback Pier Pritchard, it is an opportunity she is grabbing with both hands.
Pritchard, who traces her ancestry to Tonga and Samoa, says she grew up surrounded by men playing sport.
“As Polynesians, that’s what they do, and, funnily enough, they actually all laughed because I was playing gridiron, because it’s all padded.”
But now that she has made the national squad, she says that has all changed.
“They are so impressed. I think they underestimated me a lot and they underestimated the sport. So I think, now, they take their hats off to all of us women, as well as the sport.”
The side will be led by United States-born head coach Dr Jen Welter.
She is no stranger to elite competition – she was the first female coach in the history of her country’s National Football League.
Offensive lineman Renae Hanh says having a female coach may give the Australians an edge over the competition.
“She’s had experience playing in two World Cups, and she brings a lot to us from, obviously, the female perspective. And that’s something that we’re going to see trickle on now that women are playing this sport. We don’t have as many coaches right now, but I think, in a couple of years’ time, we’ll be able to bring that player experience to the coaching roles as well.”
For the Australian women, months of hard work has been leading up to this moment, the chance to represent their country on an international stage.
Defensive linebacker Matilda Quist says they do not plan to return home empty handed.
“We want a medal. Definitely, we want a medal. We don’t just want to be participants in a sport. I know that this is our first time, but everybody’s given a hundred per cent, and it would be amazing to come home with a medal.”
Defensive safety Renee Targett says she is hoping to shine a light on gridiron in Australia and the opportunities for women to play.
“I want to be able to go to schools and go to other younger girls and say, ‘Look, these sports are out there. There are opportunities out there for you. Come and try something new, and you could find that you make new friends, develop a new skill and become really good at it.'”
The Women’s World Championship kicks off on June the 24th.