Half the world away: Aussie Lucy Parrington’s journey to USAFL

From a local Adelaide ice rink to a makeshift Aussie Rules field on the other side of the globe, Lucy Parrington’s sporting journey is a road rarely trodden.

Even from a young age, it was clear that a wide array of sports would play an intrinsic role throughout her life.

Lucy Parrington marks for Swinburne during her short-lived footy career in Australia. Image: Janine Eastgate

Yet it was a sport far less common than our national game that first took the fancy of the budding athlete.

“When I was younger I used to play pretty much every sport I could get my hands onto. Ice hockey just came up as one of those,” Parrington said, speaking with GPF Radio’s Peter Holden.

“I guess because I was so keen on playing every different sport at the time, I thought I’d give it a try and I kind of went from there.

“My parents hated the idea of me playing so they stopped me playing for about six months and then eventually, because I kept on bugging them to let me play, they eventually let me go down and there was no turning back after that.”

Following a move to Melbourne, Parrington would go on to play a starring role as a forward with the Melbourne Ice in the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League, before last year being selected to represent her country in the national women’s team.

Amazingly, the 33-year-old is now pursuing another sporting dream.

After beginning her PhD in Sports Science, Parrington was drawn to Australian Rules football while working on a project linked with the Western Bulldogs.

As her interest in playing the sport grew, friends convinced the talented athlete to train with the Melbourne University women’s team.

But multiple frustrating injuries, including breaks to her finger and hand in separate incidents, prevented her from a debut.

Eventually, Parrington’s breakthrough came a few years later when she joined the Port Melbourne Colts.

“As soon as I got down to the club I realised that they just had a really good atmosphere.

“It was great group of girls a really good pair of coaches that were down there as well and I wanted to keep going back and keep playing so I did.”

Parrington was part of a successful premiership win with the club in Division 2, but a recent job offer overseas once again halted a potential sporting career.

“I decided to apply for a job over here [in Portland, Oregon],” Parrington said.

“I kind of thought it’s the time of my life where I have that opportunity to do it and I was just looking online at a range of jobs that were available and saw something that was directly in my field [of study].

“I’d been to Portland before on a conference trip and just really liked the place.

“It’s got a great vibe, the people are really great, it’s got some cool food culture too which I think coming from Melbourne is pretty important.

“I just thought that I would shoot them through an email and ask if they would take international applicants and when they said yes I thought I might as well give it a try, and lo and behold then, it turned into an interview and now I’m here.

“I just kind of stuck my foot out and this is what resulted.”

Naturally, now living in the United States, you’d be forgiven for assuming the next course of action Parrington sought was to find her nearest ice rink and resume playing ice hockey.

Instead, strangely she’s found herself returning to Aussie Rules playing in the USAFL for the Portland Sockeyes.

“I just was Googling Portland and football because at the time when I was moving over was when the inaugural Women’s AFL comp was starting, and it really made me think ‘I’d love to still be playing football’, so I thought I would just have a look and see what was available.

“Then I saw that there was a team here and was even more surprised to see that there was a women’s group playingm so I just sent an email through to the team and just went from there.:

Now playing alongside the likes of veteran Heather Serpico and fellow Australian Simone Shepherd, Parrington’s background in ice hockey is far from the strangest tale of switching sporting codes.

A couple of locals have opted for the oval ball following careers in roller derby.

“I guess it goes to show that… it’s a sport that anybody can come down and give a try,” Parrington said.

“I think it’s kind of cool to see on the weekend one of the girls who was playing in her first game from roller derby just sort of bumped someone off the ball and I was like ‘yeah, that’s right!’

“You see that transfer of certain skills that come from one sport that can be used in another.

“But it’s a great group of girls that are down there playing and I’m really glad that I could come down and join in and be a part of it.”

It’s unknown what the future holds for Parrington as she continues her travel, career and sporting opportunities.

She will remain in the US for at least the next two years as she continues working, though the lure of heading to San Diego in October for the USAFL Nationals is something that continues to stay on her mind.

Whatever she chooses, Lucy Parrington is a defining example that no matter what your passion, there will always be a pathway to pursue your dreams.

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