Jess Doyle from Sydney's northern beaches will captain the QBE Sydney Swans Academy's Under 19 team when they play in the premier NAB League interstate competition for the first time this weekend.
An excited Doyle got the call from Academy head coach Jared Crouch, who told her she'd be tossing the coin ahead of the match against League leaders, the Geelong Falcons at Deakin University on Saturday.
"I was shocked as I didn't expect it,'' Doyle said. "It's pretty cool to be captain of the Academy.''
Doyle, a skilful midfielder/forward, earned the honour after strong performances in the two recent games against the GWS Academy, including a four-goal haul in game one.
That match showcased Doyle's craft as a footballer. Her first goal was a lovely left foot kick on the run after a handball receive 30m from goal. The second came after she won a clearance from a ruck contest, ran and bounced the ball and then slotted the goal.
The third was another snap after she roved the ball from a throw in, and the fourth came from another hard-won clearance.
The 17-year-old is not just crafty on the field – she’s also a year-12 student and her favourite subjects involve timber work and design.
She's already made a coffee table, and a bedside table for her dad, and is working on constructing a chess board as her major project for the year.
"I love the design side of it,'' says Doyle.
But her first love at the moment is football. She began playing for the Pittwater Tigers near her home in the beachside suburb of Avalon when she 13. Her dad and brother played in the local Sydney competition, so she followed in their footsteps.
"I've grown up with footy in the family, all around me, and we watch the AFL all the time. When I was 13 the club started a girls' team and the coach asked me to play,'' she recalls.
"I remember my first game really well. As soon as I touched the ball, I loved it,'' said Doyle, who is a skilful left-foot kick.
She played both netball and football until this year but is now concentrating on footy, with the aim of being drafted into the AFLW in the 2021 draft.
She's a standout talent but Saturday's game against the Falcons will be a formidable test for Doyle and her QBE Sydney Swans Academy team-mates. It's their one and only game in the elite U19 NAB League and will give the girls the chance to compete against some of the best emerging talent in Victoria.
"I'm really looking forward to travelling together as an Academy team and taking on the Falcons – they look pretty strong from the footage I've seen,'' said Doyle, who will have her lucky blue 'scrunchie' in her hair when she leads the team out onto the field.
Jared Crouch is expecting a tough contest against the undefeated Falcons. "The Falcons set up well from half-back, they move the ball well, they're strong in the contest and very physical,'' Crouch said.
"It will be a chance to see where our girls are at. We'll have to play to our strengths and embrace the physical challenge.''
The QBE Sydney Swans Academy team will be without talented forward Kiara Beesley – who was captain in the two games against the Giants – after she ruptured her ACL in the second match.
"She's a big loss and we really feel for her,'' Crouch said.
This is the final game for the year for the QBE Sydney Swans Academy U19 girls. The best talent will be selected alongside players from the Giants Academy, Tasmania and the Northern Territory to form an Allies squad for the AFLW National U19 Championships next month.
Sydney Swans team: