“I thought it was really strange. I’d never seen girls play footy before!"
Kaitlyn Ashmore’s journey to the AFLW big time didn’t start from birth. She wasn’t kicking a footy when she came out of the womb and she sure wasn’t enthralled by the game before she could talk.
In fact, she grew up with a family heavily involved in baseball and athletics, which she thrived on until she hit high school.
However, Ashmore’s journey to make her mark in the Inaugural AFL Women’s Competition is an inspiring one and an adventure that she’s taken on board with open arms.
“I found footy when I went to high school, in Year 7,” Ashmore said.
“My friend played with the boys and I thought it was completely out of the park."
While the spectacle of AFL for females was something out of the ordinary for Ashmore, she quickly settled into her high school team and found a hunger for the evolving game.
“Because I could run, they put me in the midfield and I was just a ball chaser. It was really different back then,” she said.
“But I loved that team environment that came with it. I found a team to continue with when I finished Year 12, in Ballarat and [my passion] grew from there.”
Fast forward to the end of 2016, Ashmore was picked up as a priority for the Inaugural Brisbane Lions AFLW team, meaning she had to pack up everything and move up the coast to start her dream AFLW journey.
“I had to leave Ballarat for Brisbane and I had never really lived far away from home,” Ashmore said.
“So I packed up the car, moved everything up there. I just loved it as soon as I got up there,” Ashmore said.
“I lived across the road from the GABBA. It was like I was living a dream.”
Although Ashmore’s periods away from home in Brisbane were rewarding for her and her footy, she began to struggle with the balance between her family in Victoria and her career with the Lions, towards the end of 2018.
“My brother had a baby. They were due at the end of November and she had a lot of complications and I was up in Brisbane. It was really hard being away from the family.”
“I was 27 at the time, as well, so I couldn’t keep flying up and back every six months. That’s when I made the decision to come home.”
But Ashmore exited the Lions headquarters on good terms and is extremely grateful for the opportunity the club gave her.
“I appreciate everything they did for me up in Brisbane. It really got me out of my comfort zone.”
“But I love being back home. It’s just so much easier to go up to road to Ballarat and see the family.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing when Ashmore made the call to move back to Victoria to continue her AFLW for Season 2019 and she respects the other women who have done the same in the AFLW.
“I got a bit of flak, moving, but everyone, including myself, had reasons for moving,” Ashmore said.
“I read that Katie [Brennan] wanted a fresh start and there’s no better way to do that then to be with another club.”
And Ashmore herself, can attest that making a much-needed move can reignite your passion and lead you down another exciting path, on another exciting journey for a new football team.
Her first season with North Melbourne, although tough with a completely new side, was a rewarding experience for the local girl from down the highway.
“Coming together for the first time was really hard, but there was glimpses of us gelling really well.”
“I’m still wrapping my head around the idea that’s it’s over. It was such a big build up for North,” said Ashmore.
But Ashmore knows that she’d do it all again; from giving up athletics, to taking up the game of AFL at 12, to the move to Brisbane to follow her dreams and back home to continue them. This is what she was born to do.
“Getting out of my comfort zone is the best thing I’ve had to do.”