In order to make it to the big time of playing in the AFL Women’s competition, sacrifices need to be made to show you’re worthy of a place on the playing list of 27.
For some it’s giving up potential study times, for others it’s turning down overtime hours at work, and for one hopeful, it’s leaving behind your life on the other side of the world to play a game many in your home country still don’t fully understand.
Valerie Moreau’s journey to hopefully becoming an AFLW footballer began two years, and like for many overseas players, it was through a chance encounter in another sport.
“I was playing a basketball game and the referee saw me play,” Moreau told Girls Play Footy.
“He came up to me after the game and was like ‘I saw your skills, I see you can make quick decisions, so you should come try it [Aussie Rules] out’.”
Just a couple of months later ‘Rocket’ started playing our great game with the Montreal Angles (18-a-side) and Notre Dame de Grace Giants (9-a-side), and took to it like a duck to water.
“After one season I was pretty much able to control a kick and handpass.
“The bounce was pretty easy because of my basketball background, so that’s not too bad.”
Her quick development shocked everyone, as in her first year of footy she won the rookie of the year, leading goalkicker, and best and fairest Awards for the AFL Quebec League – the same competition the 2014 World Team captain Aimee Leagult played in.
During her rookie year, Moreau also represented the Canadian Northern Lights against the USA Freedom in their 49th Parallel Cup match, then the following year gained further honours by playing for Quebec at the AFL Canada Nationals, and Montreal/Boston at the USAFL Nationals.
However, like all athletes who dominate their competition, they are hungry for further challenges.
So, thanks to a good word put in by a Collingwood’s Kendra Heil – a fellow Canadian based in Melbourne – Moreau gained an invitation to train under Darren Flanigan at the Victorian Women’s Football Academy, and decided to pack up her life in Montreal and head to the home of Aussie rules.
“Darren [Flanigan] gave me an opportunity, I took it, and since I started training there it’s been amazing.
“The academy is really full of skilled girls; they want to improve, they want to get drafted next year, so it’s the best place I could be right now to improve.
Moreau impressed the Academy coaches so much that she was lucky enough to be selected to play in trial matches against Collingwood’s AFL Women’s team.
In one of those matches, she was in control of the defence, barking orders to teammates to ensuring they were in correct position; a different role to what she had played at the USAFL Nationals a couple of months earlier as an attacking midfielder.
“As I’m short, my role will be to definitely pick up the ball and run; try to win my own ball.
“Got the speed, the quick decisions are there, and I’m hard to tackle.
“I need to work on skills, so I can be a really, really good player and improve my chances of being drafted.”
As Moreau works hard on her game during the Academy’s six-month program, she’ll eventually be putting everything she’s learnt towards a full-on 2017 footy calendar.
Not only will she be donning the Eastern Devils (VFLW) jumper like a number of her countrywomen have before, she’ll also be representing Canada as it defends its World Champions crown in the women’s division of the AFL International Cup, to be played in Melbourne during early-mid August.
“Can’t wait for that to happen; [it’s] going to be really, really good.
“We [the team] are pretty confident about it and we like to say that we’re the best country outside of Australia for footy.”
“So we do feel confident, we’re going to be skilled, we’re going to be fit.
“The girls are working really hard back home, we’re making sure to keep track of what everyone is doing.
“We’ve got a [social media] group where we all follow each other, and support each other.
“The girls are ready, we’re going to be there to win and nothing less.”
Vision of Valerie Moreau’s development in just 15 months can be watched below.