Kalinda Howarth is certainty a rising star of our game, going from playing her first game of AFLW in Round 1 to receiving All-Australian honours in just one season. She’s had her ups and downs in the football world, but now that her name is on the map, things are undoubtedly only going to go up from here.
Kalinda has cherished a lifelong passion for Aussie rules football which is clear when she talks about where it all began for her in her football journey, as well as her early connection with the Gold Coast Suns.
“I was asked by my primary school. So, I started off at primary to play in the school competition and from that, I was picked into a Sunfire Academy run by the Suns … I joined up at my local club at Southport and then obviously started making it to the rep teams.”
After excelling at club level, Kalinda was offered the chance to represent her state of Queensland, where she found mentors in two of Queensland’s biggest AFL Women’s personalities.
“So I was playing club footy and was fortunate enough to be representing my state in Queensland and the head coach of the time was Craig Starcevich. Starc and Brianna Brock up at the Lions mentored me… Then at the end of 2017, I was picked up to the Lions.”
Kalinda wasn’t able to find her place in the Lions side. As she took some time to reflect away from the game and focus on her mental health, former Lions assistant coach, now current Gold Coast Sun’s coach David Lake, and now head of women’s football at the Suns Fiona McLarty were in constant contact with Howarth in regards to her mental health battle.
Howarth joined Bond University in the QAFLW at the end of 2018. Howarth had a great season, kicking 31 goals in the 15 games she played, as well as coming second in the league Best and Fairest. She was then selected to be a part of the Sun’s squad for their winter series in 2019.
“I was delisted [from Brisbane Lions] in the end, so then had a year off from footy to sort of work on my off-field stuff. I was dealing with mental health, so I worked a lot through that, and with the guidance and assistance of the Suns and Lakey and Fi, I was lucky enough to get a second chance.“
Kalinda was picked as one of the Suns’ priority signings after having a great winter series. Kalinda was working at the Sun's headquarters at the time when she was told she got a big surprise.
“I was in shock and I couldn't believe it. I was actually at the Suns for work at the time, and Fi just asked if I could quickly pop into the room. I wasn't expecting anything.
“When Lakey and Fi told me that they were going to pick me up as a priority signing, I think all of us in the room cried at the time. It was such a long and hard journey for us to get to that point and I think all of us in the room are just so proud and, yeah, I'm so honoured that they asked.”
Kalinda made her Suns debut in Round 1 against the Giants in a very wet and rainy contest, where the Suns unfortunately went down by a point. While reflecting on the Round 1 game, Kalinda talked about how important it was to have her family at the game to see her run out in her first-ever game of football at the elite level.
“It was incredible. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face and you still can’t wipe the smile off my face now reminiscing on it… I had a few relatives [in Sydney] and my dad and his partner flew across to watch me, and all my cousins.
“I could hear them and they were in the guard of honour so it was a really special moment and I’m so thankful to the Suns for flying a couple of my family members down there.
“It was an incredible experience and I was a little bit nervous when I first got out onto the field, but I quickly settled in once I had my first touch.”
View this post on Instagram
Well done Kindy! Make sure you swipe to see the moment Kalinda found out the news. Head to our website for the full video. #Repost @gcsuns ・・・ Kalinda Howarth is the 21st player to be signed to our AFLW list. Congratulations, Kalinda! ☀️ Swipe to see the moment she found out.