When Jess O'Brien finally made the decision to come out as gay, her Tamworth Swans teammates "were great about it".
Publicly announcing your sexuality is a nerve-wracking moment in the life of any member of the LGBTQI+ community, but the Swans made it clear that they fully supported O'Brien.
"They did not care one bit," O'Brien said.
"I think they just thought 'Whatever, as long as you're still playing AFL, that's fine.'
"That's what made it so easy for me, they're such a great club to be with and have that support."
This weekend, for the first time in the history of AFL North West, that inclusive spirit will be on display during Pride Round.
For the duration of all AFLNW senior matches this Saturday, the players will wear rainbow socks in a show of unity and support for their gender diverse teammates.
It is a "great" initiative, O'Brien said, which she hopes will make it easier for members of the LGBTQI+ community to feel at home in the sporting community.
"I think it's great that they're getting behind it, and it's now becoming not so taboo as it has been for so long," she said.
"People can come out openly and say that they're gay, and it's okay."
Community football manager for AFLNW, Paul Taylor, said the local clubs were quick to jump on board once the idea of Pride Round was put forward.
"When we first flagged the idea of a Pride Round with the clubs in both Leagues they were on board straight away and wanted to know how they could support the initiative," Taylor said.
"I'm really proud of how supportive our clubs have been, not just in getting behind this themed round, but by supporting their local communities and striving to create a safe space where everyone can be themselves around the footy clubs."
The opportunity to pull on the rainbow socks this weekend against the Moree Suns, O'Brien said, is a "pretty cool thing", and she hopes it will help encourage people of all sexual orientations to take part in sport.
"By wearing the pride socks that we're being given, I think it'll say that this is just about unity," she said.
"It's a part of life, you love who you love and no-one's going to stop that. No-one can stop that.
"It does make it easier for people to come forward and say 'You know what, I am gay', and that's it."
The Tamworth Swans will travel to Narrabri's Leitch Oval this Saturday in both the men's and women's divisions. The men will take on the combined Narrabri Eagles Moree Suns (NEMS) team from 2pm, while the women will play the Moree Suns starting at noon.
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