The Footy Almanac have shared an extract from their latest publication.
The Footy Almanac is a collective of sports fans and writers committed to the coverage of the women’s game. This book is testament to the power of community to come together to provide a detailed record of women’s football that is the only one of its kind written by fans.
Carlton versus Brisbane 7.45pm, Friday 17 February Princes Park, Melbourne.
AS I MAKE MY WAY TO THE BRISBANE ROOMS preparing myself for post-match interviews, I wonder who I will ask to speak to from the victorious Lions who are about to defeat the Blues on the road.
My choices are wide considering the talent on this list. Should I interview powerhouse player Sabrina Frederick-Traub or maybe the courageous captain Emma Zielke? The dynamic Kaitlyn Ashmore or should I ask Nat Exon for some style tips? I am nearly at the Lions’ race, still trying to make up my mind, as Sophie Conway kicks her second goal that will clinch the game, when I am accosted by an overly excited man in a Brisbane polo shirt.
He bear-hugs me and lifts me from the ground in an explosive moment of excitement.
“That’s my daughter! That’s my daughter!” He beams and cheers boisterously as she bolts to the bench for a breather. I watch him watching her. His eyes wet, his smile quivering, trying to hold himself together. The proudest of papas.
I introduce myself and John Conway kindly speaks to me, as the final siren sounds, about his exceptionally talented daughter and his family, with a raw honesty and humble passion that brings a tear to my eye.
You may or may not be aware of the tragedy that fell upon the Conway family in June 2017. John had to say goodbye to his beloved wife Christine after a four-year battle with breast and brain cancer and Sophie, with her brothers, Isaac (who plays in the VFL for Port Melbourne) and Ben, had to say goodbye to their biggest fan, their loving mum.
“This is very special,” John says as he applauds the Lions who are hugging and high-fiving each other on the ground. He gestures over to his boys whose eyes are proudly on Sophie.
‘We keep strong as a unit and we do it for Chrissy who built herself on family values. There’s not a day that goes by without one of us thinking of her.’
Casting his eye towards his daughter who excitedly makes her way to the huddle in the middle of the ground to sing the song, he also expresses his delight in the recent progress of women’s sport, acknowledging the pathways that are now available for Sophie and so many other young women.
‘This is an opportunity not just for women’s football, but for women’s sport across the board. I love how women’s sport has just grown in the last few years. Sophie has played hockey all her life. She has represented Queensland through hockey right to the end and she now she has an opportunity to come into AFL, which is great because she always loved it. Ever since she was the one who had to fetch the ball and kick it back to her brothers!’
And now she’s out there on Princes Park bagging two goals to bring down the side that went into Round 3 on top of the ladder.
I spoke to Sophie in the rooms after the game. I told her that her father gives the best bear-hugs going around and she laughed knowingly. She knows what her success means to him after everything her family has been through.
‘Last year was a pretty tough year, I had my mum pass away and in the first six months of 2017, I was just by her side while she was sick.’
While the tragedy of Christine’s death had a huge impact on her and her family, Sophie continued to work towards her AFLW dreams with the support of her father and brothers.
‘A lot of things fell in place for me after Mum passed away. I was then named in the All-Australian Under-18s squad and was drafted to Brisbane (at pick 44) and debuted. Unfortunately, Mum didn’t see a lot of it but she’s been a big inspiration for me. She gave up a lot of her life for my sporting career so it means a lot. It’s a really good feeling to go out there and kick a couple of goals for her and to have both my brothers in the grandstand and my dad – they’re so supportive of me, they love everything I do. I can hear them from the field but I try to block it out because yeah, they’re very vocal! But they’re just stoked for me and they’re really happy just to see what I’m doing and how good I’ve been going.’
Seeing that support first hand in the outer while standing with John, Isaac and Ben as they watched Sophie succeed certainly demonstrated a palpable bond. It was a beautiful experience to see how this family was there for each other in so many more ways than just in the stands.
However, Conway is a professional and while she works hard on the field to make her family proud and honour her late mother, she has a role to play for her team which she is 100% focused on. Having John, Isaac and Ben, her own personal pride of Lions behind her, will be an invaluable weapon propelling her forward as she makes her mark on this competition.
The Women’s Footy Almanac 2018 is available for purchase online here footyalmanac.com.au and in selected bookstores for $30.00.