It’ll be a dream come true for the SUNS newest debutant Gabrielle Biedenweg-Webster when she runs out on to Great Barrier Reef Arena for her AFLW debut on Saturday afternoon.
The SUNS head to Mackay to face the Saints with a new face heading along for the ride for the first time.
The 24-year-old has fast become a much-loved member of the SUNS playing group since joining in the off-season, known for her intercept capabilities and explosiveness blasting off the half-back flank.
Fittingly, as the AFLW celebrates its Season Seven Indigenous Round, the proud Wiradjuri woman will get the chance to don the club’s Indigenous jumper in front of family who will make the journey north.
Great Barrier Reef Arena is situated some 1000+ kilometres from SUNS headquarters and even further from where Gabby’s path towards the AFLW began.
Growing up in Rand in southern New South Wales, the opportunity came knocking to play footy during her time at University in Melbourne, but Wiradjuri country will always be a special place for the 24-year-old.
“My Nan grew up on Wiradjuri country in Narrandera. She grew up there and migrated to Albury after her Mum got more opportunities for work,” Biendenweg-Webster said.
“A lot of my family still situated in Albury still.”
As she’s set to fittingly make her debut as the AFLW community celebrates Indigenous Round, Biedenweg-Webster shares her memories of one of her dearest role models, whose values she endeavours to live by to this day – her Nan.
“My Nan was an Indigenous elder back home, she was widely loved throughout my community,” she continued.
“She was there throughout all my schooling years, always there at things like delivering the Welcome to Country and setting the way in the community in her beliefs.
“She saw her role as a Wiradjuri woman to be an educator and a storyteller. Her bringing that along to school and community events was something I grew up with and I was incredibly lucky that my Nan did that looking back on it now.
“I’m so glad that she got to share so much, not just with my family and my community, but to everyone.
“All my friends grew up knowing my Nan and what she was about, so everything she taught my sisters, my Mum, my Aunties, I’m incredibly proud to have had that in my life.
“Now that I’m older, recognising those values, it’s something that I’m very lucky she passed on to us.”
Living rurally, the opportunity to play footy at a young age was scarce. Netball was the sport of choice growing up for a clan of five Biedenweg-Webster sisters, but the opportunity came to stamp her authority on Aussie Rules after a move south to Victoria.
“I didn’t grow up playing footy, I played a lot of netball. Footy wasn’t really an option living rurally like we did,” she continued.
“I had four sisters; I was the one who got in a bit dirty. I was probably a little more aggressive and rough when I played. Going into footy, I had a bit of fire in me.
“When the opportunity came to play in University and the AFLW was starting, I thought that’d be a pretty cool path to chase.
“I gave myself the best opportunities to make it happen, and if it did, it did. I’m very grateful and excited it has.”
After making that transition into Aussie Rules, Biedenweg-Webster has a great appreciation for the game’s celebration of its Indigenous figures and communities, highlighted through Indigenous Rounds in both the AFL and AFLW competitions.
“It’s pretty cool how much it (Indigenous Round) has developed since I got involved in footy,” she added.
“It really allows a good platform for Indigenous kids to see that ‘we can get there too’ and it’s more than just footy – you really feel like you’re in a community like home.
“The main thing is having belief in yourself. Seeing people from your own country and your community that have made it to the levels of AFLW, it shows that it’s possible.
“To see that highlighted through Indigenous Round, it’s that realisation of ‘they did it, it’s achievable.
“It’s so great that there are so many opportunities now. It’s something that we need to keep developing and keep pushing.”
Entry to Great Barrier Reef Arena this Saturday is free – match starts at 12.05pm. Catch the contest via Fox Footy, Kayo or check your local guide for details.