Soccer star's gamble pays off with Docker debut

IT HAS been a whirlwind few months for code-hopper Ange Stannett, and her journey from Perth Glory star to Fremantle Docker will be complete when she lines up against Melbourne on Sunday.

Stannett, 21, has been picked to debut among a host of fresh faces when the Dockers kick off a new NAB AFL Women's era under first-year coach Trent Cooper at Casey Fields in Melbourne’s south-east.

Remarkably, the season-opener will be just her third match of Australian football.

Having spent her sporting life mastering the round ball, a chance conversation with Fremantle strength and conditioning coach Tamara Jakobson convinced Stannett to apply for the club's rookie talent search.

She quickly impressed with her tenacity, speed and skill during try-outs, and signed with the club in September alongside former Perth Lynx basketballer Brianna Moyes.

"I feel like we've blinked and round one is around the corner," a beaming Stannett told AFL.com.au.

Born in New Zealand, Stannett was three when her family moved to Perth.

But Australian football was never on the radar, and there were more opportunities for women to progress further in soccer.

"Now it's cool young girls these days have this (AFLW) opportunity," she said.

"Playing soccer for 15 years was my comfort zone.

"You kind of know where your next step is with that, and this was just brand new and exciting.

"Rather than wait a couple of years and see where my soccer career went, I'd rather throw myself into this and give it my best shot.

"It's paid off at this stage."

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Bringing her defensive nous from soccer has helped Stannett make the transition to Freo's backline, while living with gun teammate Kellie Gibson and mucking around with a Sherrin at home has boosted her confidence with the ball in her hands.

But Stannett also couldn't speak highly enough of Cooper's positive reinforcement and simple instructions, which calmed her nerves before her first match against Adelaide in Darwin two weeks ago.

"He's been the best," Stannett said.

"The coaches have obviously been giving me a lot of feedback, but a lot of it has been learning from the girls that playing around as well.

"They've been really awesome in this transition, because I'd probably be a lot more lost out there if it wasn't for them.

"Regardless of what sport you're playing, as an athlete you can bring that second, third effort, that work ethic."

Stannett certainly isn't afraid of getting her hands dirty.

She worked as a labourer while she was waiting to turn 21 so she could apply to become a paramedic.

But she has since shifted into running her own personal training business and is studying exercise sports and rehabilitation part-time at university, around her sporting commitments.

"It gets a lot trying to juggle that," Stannett said. 

But if there is one person who hasn't been surprised by Stannett's ability to make it work, it's her Queens Park soccer coach Ben Anderton, who presented her with her first Fremantle guernsey last week.

"Ange is one of those players who holds a lot of skillsets beyond her years," Anderton said.

"Adaptability – that's a huge one for her – so I wasn't surprised she could turn her hand to another code straight away, especially with the hard work she has put in.

"She's definitely a driven person.

"I'm super-excited to see what she can do. I know she will perform on the day, but then there's also the nervousness of probably losing her (from soccer) if she does continue down that path.

"I'm a Dockers fan. I've got the anchor tattooed on me, so I'm really excited for her."