AFLW pre-season is yet to officially begin, though for Lucy Single, training never stops.

Coming off the back of a career best season and an appearance in the finals, there’s a hunger that sees her not just want to play on the best, but to be the best.

In 2023, the 21-year-old went toe-to-toe with AFLW Best & Fairest winners Brianna Davey, Madi Prespakis and Monique Conti and received coaches votes against all three opponents. Against Richmond, in the SUNS nail-biting after the siren win, Single amassed 16 disposals and 6 tackles and was in the umpire’s votes for the first time in her career.

“I think it was the combination of the confidence that both the club, coaches and my teammates gave me, as well as believing in myself a bit more,” she says, on her breakout year.

“Obviously it was exciting for most of us to play in our first final and the second for the club, but it’s now put a real fire in our bellies. We don’t just want to be making finals, we want to be impacting them and going further into the season.”

Despite the admiration of coaches and now the football media, Single is genuinely humble and always team first. Though quietly spoken, as her profile continues to grow, she relishes the opportunity of being a role model and being actively involved in the community. An emerging leader, Single embodies the team’s value of ‘connected’ and has a genuine drive to make others better, be it on or off the field.

“I try to lead through my actions and my performance on the field,” she says. “For me creating relationships is important, I’d say my leadership style is my ability to connect with teammates and people.”

Outside of football Single is studying education and plans to one day be a high school English and Literature teacher.

This week she facilitated the SUNS in-person education program A Day In The Life and taught a class of Year 10 students about leadership, goal setting and resilience, as well as taking them through a football, nutrition and gym session.

She also features prominently in the SUNS Play To Your Strengths online education material, where she talks about the skillset and mindset required to be an elite athlete.

For me teaching is the type of job where you become a lifelong learner; you’re always learning new things. Because of that there’s never a boring day.”

In somewhat of a full circle moment, Single recalls being a high school student and attending a presentation and clinic from Wallaby stars Adam Coleman, Nick Phipps and Reece Hodge. At the time, she was quoted as saying, "it gives us girls hope that we can do it and be in professional teams in the future like they are.”

Fast forward to 2024, and Single is now the one giving school talks and similarly inspiring young people, particularly females.

“It puts a lot of things into perspective and really emphasises the power of words and the power of participating in your community,” she says, reflecting on the encounter. “It’s important to remember how much of an impact you can have.”

What makes her story so fascinating, is the path she took to the AFLW. Growing up, surf lifesaving, karate and rugby sevens took much of her attention, until discovering Australian Rules Football at the age of 14. Just four years later, she made her AFLW debut for the SUNS.

t's not just her sporting background that is resonating with students, but so too her cultural background. Single is of Korean and New Zealand heritage, and spent much of her childhood living in Raglan, a small beachside town on New Zealand’s North Island.

Last week, along with fellow SUNS Hewago Paul Oea and Mac Andrew, Single represented the club as a multicultural ambassador at AFL Queensland’s Iftar dinner, a celebration to mark Ramadan and Harmony Day.

“I think representation is so important, especially in sport and women’s sport. To be able to look up to someone and be able to understand that it is possible for you to follow a similar journey is invaluable.” 

Single has seen first-hand the value of harnessing the power of sport to bring people together. For her, football means family, self, and community.

“At the end of the day I love sport and how it can bring people together. I love the joy of winning with a bunch of girls, but also how you ride the lows together. That creates a genuine connection that you can’t really find outside of sport. Being part of the SUNS AFLW team for me is like having 31 sisters. It’s great to be at a club where it feels like family and a community.”