Moree’s Jess Maher is a step closer to her goal of playing professional AFL after being accepted to the Simon Black Australian Rules Football Academy in Brisbane.
The 18-year-old, who finished school last year, will now spend the next three years as part of the academy where she will have the opportunity to develop her game under the guidance of elite level coaches, while undertaking a Diploma of Sports Development, followed by a Bachelor of Business (Sports Management).
The academy, founded by Brownlow Medallist and former Brisbane Lion Simon Black, is open to males and females aged 17 and over who have left high school and want to complete further study while following their football passion.
Maher’s acceptance into the academy was a silver lining after she just missed out on being drafted by the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants.
“That hit her pretty hard,” Maher’s Moree coach Duane Macey said.
“When she went down to GWS for a trial the coach pretty much told her she was in. We heard from them a lot but then come draft time, nothing.
“Simon [Black] got in contact and said ‘I want her up here, I can do a lot for her’.”
Macey said for Black to notice Maher is an indication of her potential in the sport, and with the Brisbane Lions being her second choice for drafting, the opportunity to be a part of the academy was too good to pass up.
“There’s a good chance she might be put into [the Lions’] training squad … if they have an injury streak like they did last year, she could play in the Women’s AFL this year,” he said.
Maher has only been playing AFL for two years but has shown significant natural talent over that time, representing the North West in the inaugural women’s team.
She was thrilled when she found out she had been accepted into the academy, which will involve training and study from 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday.
“It feels pretty good, coming from a small town and working hard for the last two years and things are finally paying off, with a bit of a push and shove from my coach Duane,” she said.
It feels pretty good, coming from a small town and working hard for the last two years and things are finally paying offJess Maher