When the opportunity arose for Georgia Clayden to join the AFLW Gold Coast Suns, we were happy to support her in the pursuit of this passion. Earlier this month we sat down with Georgia to find out more about her AFLW experience and how she’s balancing her roles as a professional footballer and physio.
How does a professional physiotherapist come to be drafted in the 2022 AFLW season? Can you talk us through that process?
I had the opportunity to play in the 2022 Summer and Winter series for the Giants in a Canberra-based squad, which was a great chance and opportunity for me to play footy at a higher level and to have exposure to be seen at this level. I am also very lucky to have a great agent, he played at my local club Ainslie and helped me with the process of getting drafted.
I was then pinching myself when I was asked to sign with the Gold Coast Suns! Due to losing some players to expansion clubs they had the ability to sign some mature aged players before the draft period, which I was one of. I have been privileged with a sporting history of both netball and volleyball at an elite level, having played in the Australian Netball League (ANL) and the Australia Volleyball League (AVL) for multiple years and having represented Australia as a junior in both sports. I believe this background is what helped me to get a foot in the door.
It was then a very quick turnaround before I was to be on the Gold Coast and start training to prepare for Season 7 of the AFLW!
What have you learned so far this season both personally and professionally?
There has been so much learning, it’s tricky to put it into one paragraph! My footy has certainly improved being in this environment and being around such talented players and coaching staff.
On a personal level, being back in the elite environment, I have been reminded of the importance of resilience, confidence, and teamwork. An elite professional environment can be extremely tough, so these things are imperative to keep you playing and training at your best. We are also incredibly lucky to have access to the use of Strength and Conditioning coaching, Physiotherapists and sports doctors, Sports Psychologists, Massage Therapists, and Dieticians. Having access to this has been extremely beneficial to ensure I am at my best physically and mentally.
On a professional level, the AFLW has been a little bit trickier in terms of my physio career. The AFLW is a part-time program and contract, so I can continue to work up here outside of footy, but it is limited compared to when I was working full
What are you missing most about Canberra?
I certainly do NOT miss the cold weather! But I was born and bred in Canberra, so this is the first time living away from all my close friends and family. I miss the people the most. My close friends and family, as well as work colleagues. I was at SportsCare for just under 5 years and I developed some great friendships there. I also miss my partner- he has stayed in Canberra for the time being for his work. But most of all I miss my puppy! We have a little 9-month-old Border Collie called Mintie, so she would have to top my list!
The flip side to this though is the Suns have been incredibly welcoming and friendly. In the short time I have been here, I feel I have already made some great friends and relationships. For someone moving away, changing careers and being away from their partner, the club has made the transition feel very smooth and I have loved my time here from the start.
What are some highlights from the games/the club that you would like to share?
Being fortunate enough to debut in the first round of the AFLW Season 7 was very special for me. I have had to work extremely hard over this preseason and I felt so lucky to be rewarded for that. Another highlight would be the group of athletes I have met. I have played a lot of sports and been around lots of different teams, but there is something so special about this group and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it. From the most recent game, a highlight for me would be laying a tackle on Tayla Harris (a very well-known player) and her getting called for ball. It feels so surreal!
How has SportsCare supported you during the process of this opportunity?
I have been incredibly lucky and fortunate with the support SportsCare have given me. Even though it was a slightly tough situation in that there wasn’t much time and things happened quickly, I could not have been better supported by an employer and work group. I must say though this did not surprise me, I have worked there for a long time and a huge part of the reason for that is because it is a great culture and such an incredible group of people. They were incredibly supportive of the move and me playing footy professionally.
I still keep in touch with them and can join online meetings where it works. After the duration of the season, I will be back and hopefully do some work back there while I wait to see what’s ahead, as it is quite unknown in professional sport! I am unsure where this adventure will take me and how long it will last, but I am very sure that at the end of it I will be back, as SportsCare is a second home to me.
Georgia has accomplished a lot within the AFLW so far, and we are so proud of her! As the season goes on, we look forward to learning more about her sporting achievements.