How one mum's email helped create a Giant in more ways than one

WITHOUT the persistence of her mum Michelle, ruck Erin McKinnon wouldn't be playing football for Greater Western Sydney.

In fact, she wouldn't be playing football at all.

A Sydney local who grew up with no knowledge of Australian Football, McKinnon wanted to begin playing at 13 when her younger brother started Auskick along with his friends. 

"We'd go on a Sunday to watch, and afterwards I'd kick the ball around with my brother and my dad and really enjoyed that, but didn't think I'd actually play it," McKinnon told womens.afl

"I'd never seen girls play it, so I didn't know it was an option until a few months later. 

"I saw an ad the Mosman Swans had put in the local newspaper about trying to encourage girls to join their Auskick program, but it said girls could play footy too. 

"Mum emailed the club and they got back to her and said they didn't actually have a girls' team. But they were really supportive and said if I could get enough girls, they would pay our registration fees, help us get started and give us some old uniforms they had." 

From there, Michelle sent a mass email out to her address book, asking everyone if they or someone they knew had a daughter who would be keen to play.

"We got a few girls to come along for the first few sessions, there was about four girls for the first week or so," McKinnon said.

"Gradually word spread, and we all brought a friend each session and it grew from there until we had enough for a team."

Friday marks the International Day of the Girl, which in 2019 carries the theme of "Girl Force: Unscripted and unstoppable", and ties nicely with the story of the Mosman Swans.

2019 International Day of the Girl: Unscripted and Unstoppable

01:55 Oct 11. 2019. 9:49 AM

When GWS Giant Erin McKinnon was 13, there was no girls football at the Mosman Swans. Now there's a team in every age group, thanks to a movement she started.

The growth of the club's youth girls sides – where McKinnon played until she was selected by the Giants in the inaugural NAB AFLW Draft in 2016 – mirrors that of women's football around the country.

Female participation rates in registered competitions have risen by 17 per cent from 2018 to 2019, even after substantial growth in the past few years. 

In 2018, women and girls accounted for 32 per cent of all football participation across the country, with New South Wales alone seeing 18,000 new female players join the ranks.

Giant ruck Erin McKinnon

"By the time I finished, the Swans had four teams and now I think they've got one – sometimes two – teams in every age group in the AFL Sydney girls' comp," McKinnon said. 

"When I started, I didn't know what AFL was and people I talked to didn't either, but it's so common now. People say, 'my daughter plays' or 'my friend plays' or 'I play too'. 

"I didn't even know it was possible to play because I couldn’t see it on the big stage, but now, girls will never know they couldn't."

McKinnon took most of this winter season off following a frustrating 2019 AFLW campaign, which was marred by injury and illness, spending two months in Europe. 

She played five games for Sydney Uni Bombers in the AFL Sydney competition on her return and has also been found on the volleyball court. 

"I was almost glad the season happened in a way, I've learned so much and I'm really keen to get back, put my best foot forward and enjoy playing footy again with the girls," McKinnon said. 

"Hopefully we'll string some success together, we’re definitely keen to go all the way.

"We've probably let ourselves down the last couple of years (the Giants won just two of seven games in 2019), we haven't played to our potential and choked in a few games we could have won, so we want to avenge that."