'I want more in my life than just footy': Oldest Lion's delicate balancing act

FOR THE first time in her life, Lauren Arnell is concentrating solely on playing football.

But she doesn't like it and wants it to change.

Arnell, who will turn 33 during the upcoming AFL Women's season, has uprooted her life in Melbourne to live in Brisbane, and in doing so, has left herself without a job.

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Following her departure from Carlton at the end of the 2018 season, the hard-as-nails midfielder had some big decisions to make.

Brisbane gave Arnell a chance to extend her career, and in doing so, she took a secondment from her AFL job to play with the Lions.

Lions veteran Lauren Arnell prepares for the 2020 season. Picture: AFL Photos

She had a strong 2019 season – finishing sixth in the best and fairest – and after a return to Melbourne during the winter to resume her job and some part-time media work, was offered another contract by the Lions.

"My job has finished at the AFL and my main source of income now is football, which is strange for me because I've always had a full-time career either teaching or with the AFL before AFLW started," Arnell told womens.afl.

"My challenge now I'm based in Brisbane is to find a job."

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While others might find it a nice temporary excuse to see what being a 'professional' footballer is like, Arnell said it just doesn't work for her.

"I need something else outside footy to keep my brain ticking over and keep me interested in something outside myself," she said.

"I think I'm a better version of me when I'm not just focused on me.

"It's an interesting case in wellbeing because I'm finding just focusing on footy and not doing a lot of work, I'm getting so much more out of my body.

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"As a footballer I feel like I'm so much further ahead than I have been.

"But mentally and in everything else – I want more in my life than just footy – it's not quite where I want to be. It's a real balancing act."

Arnell is enjoying a strong pre-season and smirks when reminded she is the oldest player on Brisbane's list.

She said the three things that will determine how long her career goes are her performance level, her health and her enjoyment.

In the short-term, there's other things to figure out, like getting the right job and keeping up with her teenage teammates.

"It keeps you young that's for sure," she said.

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"I'm learning different languages all the time.

"I still don't know what TikTok is but I'm trying to suss it all out."