QBE Sydney Swans Academy youngster Zali Deep is a state-level softballer, hockey player, touch footballer and Nipper, but footy is at the centre of her wildest hopes and dreams.

The self-confessed sports nut is among a growing pool of girls taking part in the Swans’ Youth Girls Program, which launched in 2018.

Zali kick-started her Academy journey in the under-12s and is now three weeks into her time in the under-13s, with the Swans planning to add an age group every year, through to the under-18s, until the club can enter the AFLW competition.

Zali was one of many girls and boys at Centennial Park on Monday evening for the third week of the Academy’s 2019 program, and she couldn’t have been clearer as to her enormous passion for the game in a chat with SwansTV.

“I’m really excited for the season to start because footy is my favourite thing to do,” Zali said.

“I really want to be an AFLW player. I just really want to get into the under-15s when we have to trial for that, and I just want to keep working really hard in the years after that to hopefully get into the Swans’ future AFLW team.”

Boys have long had a chance to path a journey to the AFL since the Swans introduced a boys’ academy in 2010, but – as Zali is experiencing from the lens of her own family – girls can now follow in the footsteps of their brothers.

Zali has an older brother in the under-15s, and she says it means the world to now be donning Academy colours herself. 

“He always made it sound really fun, I always went to watch him at training, I always watched him play his games and then I asked my mum if I could play footy – and I’ve loved it from the very start,” Zali said.

“I’m really excited that I now have the chance to be a part of the Academy. Girls AFL is still a very new thing and I am absolutely loving it.”

Zali’s proud mum Casandra was boundary-side for Monday’s training session, and she told SwansTV her daughter had been hooked on footy from the get-go.

“The first game she played, on the first day, she came out of it on fire and said, ‘Mum this is it. This is what I’m doing’.

“She’s become obsessed with footy, I must say. AFL is her soul. She wears her Academy shirt everywhere and she’s just so proud to be a part of it.”

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