Jo Stanley’s ‘Play Like A Girl’ series brings footy dream to next generation

Melbourne radio personality Jo Stanley loves footy. So much so that in the wake of the AFLW season, Stanley has penned a series of books about a girls footy team.

“I’m really passionate about little girls having stories written about them and that aren’t about princesses or fairy tales or romance, but that are about girls being active and great friends to each other and overcoming whatever challenges they face,” Stanley told Girls Play Footy.

The ‘Play Like A Girl’ books – Bring It On!, Dream Team!, Totally Epic! and Smashing It! – follow six friends who play for the Millsborough West Footy Club from the beginning of the season right through until the Grand Final.

“There are themes around isolation and making new friends, as we go through the series each book is written from the perspective of a different member of the team.

“There’s themes like loneliness or failure, how you overcome failure.

“One little girl is living with her gran because her parents aren’t in the picture, so its understanding that she feels different from other friends who have big families.

“There’s lots of different themes throughout the book and generally they’re just sort of experiences that I know girls aged eight to ten experience.”

A third-generation Collingwood supporter, football has always played an important role in Stanley’s life.

“My childhood was spent with my Nana at Victoria Park and now we take our daughter along to as many games as we can,” she said.

A number of AFLW players and clubs feature in the Play Like A Girl series, something Stanley said was important to her.

“It was important to me that I was able to speak about actual players.

“It was important to me that readers could see that these are real footy clubs that I’m referring to and in my book, they’re dreaming about being professional players themselves when they grow up – they could be inspired by players that they can already see on the field.”

Stanley and her eight-year-old daughter were two of the 24,500 people crammed into Ikon Park in February earlier this year, and while the result didn’t go their way, she describes the night as profound.

“It was an incredibly emotional day, I mean obviously, the result wasn’t great for Collingwood but I was pretty confident it would be full…so we got there pretty early, luckily.

“When we heard it was a lockout we felt, I think really overwhelmed by the emotion of the day because it was clear that it was a momentous day for many many people, not just Carlton and Collingwood supporters.

“When I wrote about [women’s football] in the book it was at a time when it was unremarkable, it wasn’t crazy to imagine that you could play on the MCG it was just the standard dream, which is sort of the reality that we’re now stepping into.”

The Play Like A Girls series can be found at all good bookstores and online.

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