In the last decade, few sports have experienced the remarkable growth among women such as tackle football. With a pair of competitive leagues in both the United States (WFA and IWFL) and Canada (WWCFL and MWFL), their influence is making an impact in other parts of the world. Among them is Australia, a country that has produced elite athletes in swimming, rugby, soccer and basketball, to name a few.
With the emergence of the Female Gridiron League of Queensland (FGLQ), tackle football has quickly emerged as a staple for competitive sport among women in Australia. Leading the way is one of its most exciting and most recognizable competitors, Kristy Moran with the Logan City Jets.
Akin to so many others in female football, Moran’s background included touch football. First showing proficiency with clubs such as the Brisbane Eagles (making 21 career appearances) and the Brisbane City Cobras of the National Touch League, her touch football career would be defined by contributing to the Golden Boot Trophy alongside Rebecca Simson. Eventually, it was a friend from Adelaide, South Australia that would influence Moran, propelling her towards a new chapter in her gridiron glories.
“Prior to Gridiron, I was a representative Touch Football player. I loved playing touch football and anyone who knew me knew I was an avid player. My dear friend Jen Corrigan made the suggestion that I should graduate to Gridiron as she had just started training for what would be the very first season of full kit gridiron in Australia. I said no. In fact I think I said ‘NO WAY’!!! A number of times!
I thought, there was absolutely no way I could play a CONTACT sport. Ironically, in one of my following touch football games I was penalised (more than once) for “rough play” and I remember thinking …hmm… maybe contact is more my thing (smiles). My partner, Quinton, watched the Opening game and immediately called and said ‘you have got to play this game’!
So, as promised I came down to watch Jen’s first game (second game of the season) as more of a supporter than anything else. I watched in awe of this game. It was love at first sight! I had signed up with the Logan City Jets by halftime!!
I was unable to play the first half of the season due to representative commitments to Touch Football. So my first game was not until the second half of the season and loved it. The following year, I retired from my beloved Touch Football, to focus solely on transforming into a Gridiron player full time. I have not looked back since.”
Moran quickly paid dividends for the Logan City Jets, winning the league’s inaugural championship, Summerbowl I, in a 38-20 final over the Kenmore Panthers in 2012. Also claiming Summerbowl III, these titanic triumphs would represent two of the most cherished highlights in her career.
While some very intense competitions against the Gold Coast Stingrays, a highly regarded rival, provided Moran with many game wise highlights, one of her greatest moments involved capturing Most Valuable Player honors in Summerbowl II. Although the final outcome resulted in the Stingrays claiming victory, MVP honors capped off a dream season for Moran, as she was also recognized as the league’s Most Valuable Player on Offense, comprising many proud personal achievements in her growing legacy,
“Personal stand out moments would have to be my club and league MVP’s, especially MVP of the National Championship series in 2014. In a sport that epitomises team work, I could not feel more privileged to be acknowledged. However, I am very cognisant that I did not earn any of it on my own. It has humbled me, if nothing else.
Two games stand out in particular (too). One was in the 2013 season, a hard fought game neither side giving an inch the entire game. With 22 seconds left on the clock it was nil-nil. It was perhaps our last play of the game. On this last play we out muscled our opponents and I was the lucky one to run it in for the touchdown. Needless to say I was happy (smiles)
Another epic showdown was Summerbowl III. Again, (the score was) nil-nil against the formidable Stingrays. I broke away for an 80 yard TD with 30 seconds on the clock, but it was called back on a penalty and we went into overtime.
Our amazing defense, which had been impeccable all season held out the Stingrays on their drive. Then our offense did a pound and ground attack down the field and our QB crossed over, behind an amazing effort from our O Line for the win. One of the most memorable finals win you are likely to see!
It just goes to show, our toughest opponents bring about the best moments that will be remembered. It is why I respect and am so appreciative of the Stingrays and what they bring to our competition. It is also of note that my most treasured memories are these team effort moments. In the Jets I have been blessed with some amazing team mates over the seasons. That cannot be understated.”
As the global village that is female tackle football continues to grow and welcome more players into the fold, Australia, who also has a national governing body dedicated to American football, shall play a key role in this expansion. With the next edition of the IFAF Women’s Wrold Football Championships to be held in 2017, Australia shall be among the competing countries, marking their debut at the event.
Early in 2016, a selection camp was held for the incipient Australian Outback National Women’s Team, which saw Moran participate. Not only did said camp represent the next stage in Moran’s career, it exemplified the kind of character that shall serve as a benchmark for future players. Of note, Moran had previously suffered an injury and her return to the gridiron was still a work in progress. Managing to dig deeper, Moran graced the gridiron, making an impression on coaches and players alike,
“It was an experience I am so very grateful for. This appreciation is in part due to the fact that I very nearly was not able to be part of it. With the significant injury I had sustained just three months prior, I was not likely to take the field for another 6-7 months.
Yet, I knew how special it was going to be and despite the risk, I attended. It was tough, but did not regret my decision one bit. This is just one example of how much this opportunity meant to every single player that attended (involving over 90 players).”
Of note, there was no shortage of star power at Australia’s camp. Star players from all three provinces in the FGLQ comprise an All-Star team known as the Queensland Sun Devils, of which Moran is a member. In addition, a rival league known as ACT (Australia’s Capital Territory) features a significant group of star players, headlined by the Gridiron Monarchs. Although there may be a learning curve at the 2017 IFAF Women’s Worlds, Australia holds the potential to become a powerhouse, consistently in the conversation for a podium finish, in the years to follow.
The first step towards such lofty ambitions took place at the national training camp. The lessons learned, character building moments obtained by escaping one’s comfort zone and the ability to acquire a newer appreciation of the game all served to strengthen the love of the game for all players involved. As Moran reflects on the experience of the groundbreaking camp, it was a welcome introduction to a much different yet appreciated perspective on the game,
“It definitely was a step up – in EVERYTHING…. football knowledge, intensity, discipline. The coaches asked a lot of us, but they gave us so much more! It was an exemplary example of passion and dedication to the sport. I learnt as much about myself as I did about the sport I love to play.
I think a lot of the ladies did. I observed a lot of players struggling at first but slowly evolving and by the end of camp were thriving under pressure. We walked away with a new confidence, a new appreciation for the sport but also an acute awareness of the gap between where we are and where we need to be. It was inspiring, testing and gratifying!”
Adding to the feeling of jubilation that signified a landmark moment for women’s tackle football in Australia was the fact that Dr. Jen Welter was in attendance. Having made international news as the first female coach in the history of the National Football League, spending the 2015 preseason as a coaching intern with the Arizona Cardinals, her presence was a tremendous source of inspiration for Moran and the other players.
Of note, Welter is equally accomplished as a player, having suited up for Team USA in a pair of gold medal efforts at the inaugural IFAF Women’s Worlds in 2010 and the succeeding event in 2013. Having become a celebrity in her native United States, Welter remains humble, eager to help grow the game and give her time to teach, motivate and instill belief in others,
“The first thing I noticed about her – mainly because you just cannot miss it – is her energy! She is on another level. She is intense. She has a presence. I was in awe of it.
My fondest memory of Jen was after the first day we were all exhausted. It was 10pm and I was walking past the eating hall… and there is Jen, eyes very evident of jet lag, but passionately teaching a bunch of eager ears hanging on her every word. She does not rest! She loves football and the women who play in it.”
Enhancing the prestige of Welter’s presence was the involvement of two world-class coaches. Also hailing from the United States, John Konecki and Anthony Stone collaborated at said camp, brining their acumen and strong leadership to a group of ambitious and talented athletic women that were eager to learn and subsequently raise their game to unprecedented levels.
Currently the head coach of the Chicago Force in the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) Konecki, who bears a similar appearance to another Chicago football legend, Mike Ditka, enjoys the rare prestige of having won championships at three different levels. In addition to a pair of undefeated seasons and over 50 career wins with the Force, he led the squad to a WFA national title.
Of note, the championship teams coached by Konecki all experienced victory in the same academic calendar year (2012-13). Beginning with the 2012 Illinois Class 6A state championship, this was followed by the IFAF Women’s World Championships and the WFA title, respectively.
Currently, the head coach at Crete-Monee high school (in addition to his duties with the Force), his team went to the Illinois state finals in the autumn of 2015. Additionally, one of his former players, Laquon Treadwell, was selected in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. His crowning achievement involves serving as the head coach of Team USA, capturing gold at the IFAF Worlds in 2010 and 2013. Of note, Welter was on both teams.
Also holding the title of Regional Master Trainer with USA Football, Stone shall serve as the head coach for the 2017 Australia Women’s Outback National Team. Hailing from Rockford, Illinois, Stone’s extensive coaching background involves high school, collegiate play and professional football at the indoor level. Dedicated to the Heads-Up Football philosophy, which holds high standards in concussion recognition, hydration, equipment fitting and practice guidelines, it is evident that the players are determined to match his passion and dedication, as Moran can attest,
“The other thing that was unmistakable and this was evident in all the coaches (Konecki and Stone) is their love of this game. That was front and centre. The sacrifices all three made to be there and to help build a National female team in Australia is all motivated by their love of the game and to watch it grow, particularly as an international sport.
I realized at the camp that we were in the presence of great ambassadors for the sport. I could not have been more thankful that they were here just for us!”
Through it all, Moran’s rise to prominence as a female gridiron hero and role model for young aspiring players in Australia, was attributed to more than just peak physical condition and motivation. There were also significant positive influences forming a strong support network that believed in her talent. As Moran’s career progresses, there is no question that strong fan support and growing awareness of female football are reciprocated by her gratitude and appreciation.
“There have been a number of people who have influenced me directly in my early career. Every coach I have ever had, has had a huge impact on my game and my progress – particularly Mark Maddison, Peter Farrar and Paul Mason (Buttercup) and even more recently Darius Holliday-Miller.
I also have many who have indirectly impacted me as a player – I get a lot of encouraging messages, words of wisdom and support from former players and other coaches. It really is an incredible community to be a part of. As far as other players go, probably my biggest influences would have to be my now best mate Ella Briscoe.
A quarterback of the Jets, she is like a mini Jen Welter. Her passion for, and knowledge of, the game is infectious. She has been by my side for the most part and trained with me in the off seasons to help transform me into the physical player I am now.
As I have always said, I have been blessed with some amazing people in my corner and it should be known that I have not done it alone. This sport has and continues to give me a lot. Hence, that is why I am always trying to give back to the sport where possible.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”