The inaugural AFL Women’s season was chockablock full of firsts, but amongst them all, a small quirky piece of history went largely unnoticed.
In fact, one day the cryptic question may be asked, who was the first former United States Australian Football League player to play in an AFLW Grand Final?
Before you go flicking through the football record trying to figure out who is the American, there’s the twist. The player in question is Tasmanian-born East Fremantle recruit, and Brisbane Lions star forward, Jessica Wuetschner.
Back in 2015 after the first ever televised AFL Women’s exhibition match, while many players were heading back to their home clubs for the finals, “Woosha” threw caution to the wind, packed up her bags and headed for the United States.
As Wuetschner told the Girls Play Footy Podcast back then (season 1, episode 23), she had heard about the USAFL from a friend and met with one of their Australian based advisors, Tony Fairhead, who told her about an exchange program.
The future Brisbane Lions footballer would then spend three months in Massachusetts, coaching, mentoring and playing with the Lady Demons, including at the Eastern Regional Tournament and the USAFL Nationals in Texas.
It’s been eighteen months since Wuetschner’s time in the USA, and a lot has happened here for her in Australia, but what effect has she left back on the Boston Lady Demons?
A very positive one, according to Boston women’s coach Lisa Arredondo, who spoke recently on the Girls Play Footy Podcast.
“The Boston Lady Demons were very lucky and fortunate to have her come over and she was just a firecracker to have,” Arredondo said.
“She really took the reigns and helped the girls understand the proper technique and the flow of the game.
“[She taught them] how to recruit and how to keep players, and just made them all the more energised for the sport.”
How Boston landed the star Aussie footballer for three months was due to a USAFL intuitive aimed at helping give both a skills and morale boost to women’s teams that aren’t as strong as the current USAFL Women’s Division One clubs.
“Drea Casillas, she’s on the board of the USAFL, and they had kinda spearheaded an idea of having an exchange program, of players from Australia that wanted to experience playing here in the US and help grow the game,” Arredondo explained.
“It was directed towards clubs that just needed a little more direction, help with the recruitment process and may be have an Australian female come over and explain the culture of the game and how it works.”
For Arredondo’s Boston team, Wuetschner was the perfect recruit.
A champion of the game, who was already accustomed to making the big move for the love of footy – having then already relocated to WA from Tassie – and she set about sharing her knowledge of the game with the eager Lady Demons.
“In the States some times you have Aussie men or women that float through that will help coach, but a lot of times it’s self taught,” said Arredondo.
“For me it was great to have somebody that plays all the time, to come over and say we kind of do it this way and these are the drills that we run.
“I used it as a clean slate and a learning experience, so I took away from it I think far more than she thinks she ever gave to me, but I did truly take away a ton of knowledge and passion.
“Even during any of the tournaments, anyone could go up to her and ask her how do I this and she took it and ran with it and just helped.”
It wasn’t all just playing, coaching, and talking footy for Wuetschner, who also got to enjoy some of the sites of the USA, and as Arredondo confesses, no one can out-party an Aussie when it comes to a ‘Mad Monday’.
“Yes there was a very lovely [Kangaroo] onesie that she was wearing, and it was good fun!”
For both Wuetschner and the Boston Lady Demons, unfinished business awaits.
The Brisbane Lions forward will be looking for her side to go one better next year, after losing to the Crows in the AFLW Grand Final, while the Boston Lady Demons will also be hoping to go one better at this year’s USAFL Nationals after finishing runners up in Division Two last year.
Perhaps this year Boston might pick up a few Australian recruits, all inspired by Woosha’s journey.