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Behind the lens: How family is the focus at this footy club

Check out this incredible entry for the #FootyFocus21 photography competition

Pictures: Brooke Sleep. Words: Celia Drummond

A MOMENT of peace. While the final warm-ups are done, the lockers slam and teammates rev each other up, a young mother is kitted up and matchday ready. 

Amidst the chaotic scenes normally associated with a footy changeroom just before the start of play, she breastfeeds her daughter on the wooden bench, their eyes locked together as if no one else is in the room. 

This candid inner-sanctum photo was snapped by teammate Brooke Sleep, who also shoots many of the club’s matches when she’s not playing herself. 

Jessica Harvey on the sidelines. Picture: Brooke Sleep

Brooke has recently submitted this striking image into the AFL’s community footy photo competition, Footy Focus. 

The subject of the photo, Jessica Harvey, has played competitive footy in Queensland for close to 10 years. A small hiatus was taken to give birth to fellow subject Lola, as well as for Lola’s older brother Billy, who’s almost three. 

Jessica Harvey breast feeds daughter Lola. Picture: Brooke Sleep

While this particular image was taken pre-game, Jess breastfeeds during many of her matches. When sustaining an ankle injury during one recent game for the club, Jess carried on like most superwomen do and got stuff done. As she had her ankle iced, she took the opportunity to also feed Lola whilst also finding time to cheer on her teammates from the boundary. 

That Jess can simultaneously nurse her daughter and tackle her footy is testament to the supportive and inclusive culture being bred at the Broadbeach Cats.

Jessica Harvey and son Billy. Picture: Brooke Sleep

Garry Goodman is the coach of the women’s team. He is pushing the growth of women’s footy not just within the club for players like Jess, but out in the greater Broadbeach area. He’s helping to drive the positive vibes, ensuring all have an opportunity to play and have the appropriate support when they need it.

"He goes truly beyond what’s required, he looks after all of us," says photographer Brooke.

Broadbeach now have two women’s teams playing in the Queensland Football Association Women's (QFAW) Competition, and there are currently six mums playing across the two divisions.

Inside the changerooms of the Broadbeach Cats. Picture: Brooke Sleep

Brooke notes, “The kids are always there supporting their mums on the field and some even do water running for us.”

The whole Broadbeach community bands together to look after the kids while their parents play their matches, ensuring they are well fed with oranges and have a good vantage point to cheer on mum from the sidelines.

Lola enjoys an orange. Picture: Brooke Sleep

There’s always assistance on hand, not just from Jess’ immediate playing group, but also from mothers of other players at the club. The senior men’s team also lend a hand while the women’s teams are out kicking goals on the field.

The Cats are proudly celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. It’s clear they are a team that, while not minding a win of course, have a strong focus on what’s most important. 

"It just feels like a big family at our club," says Brooke.

"I think that’s a really beautiful thing."

It's all about family at the Broadbeach Cats. Picture: Brooke Sleep

Do you have your own community footy photo to share? Enter #FootyFocus21 here for your chance to shoot with AFL Chief Photographer Michael Willson. 

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