HAVING being mentored by variety of coaches over the years, Sydney Swans and AFLW Academy representative Dakota Mason values the vast array of opinions. Along with her mother, Mason credits them all as inspirations on her journey, that has lead her from playing local football, to representing her state – NSW/ACT – and the Allies at the 2022 AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships.
“I reckon all of my coaches and my mum (are my inspirations),” she said. “They’ve really pushed me and helped me through my whole journey from my 14s coach to now. “Everyone has a different perspective and it’s good to get all that versatility in the coaching.”
Mason said there was a great buzz around Sydney with the Swans entering the AFL Women’s next season as part of the expanded full 18-team competition. The teenager said she could tell through pure numbers of female footballers, and the increase of quality – such as when her NSW-ACT side played the composite Allies team at Blacktown International Sportspark – that the standard would only keep growing into the future.
Yeah you can just tell the standard has been lifted completely,” Mason said. “We’ve had lots of girls from all over NSW to come together to play this one game. “I think we did really well, and so did the Allies, they did really well as well, so it’s just that step up competition and it just really shows you how up and coming footy is.”
Mason’s journey started off like many others, having a season with the boys before being forced to switch into the female footballing pathways. From there, the midfielder went from strength to strength, to be named among the country’s top aspiring footballers in the AFLW Academy, and receive the extra development coaching that comes along with it.
“I started off playing with the boys when I was 14. I played a season with them and absolutely loved it,” Mason said. “Then they wouldn’t let me play with the boys the next year so I turned to female footy. Played at Kiama Power for the last few years but made the switch to Southern Power this year.
“The Swans Academy have really helped with development and just with everything else in general with footy. They’ve been really good, and just getting this opportunity has been awesome. “There’s been heaps of people, heaps more teams, the competition, everything’s gotten heaps better so looking forward to it.”
As someone who looks up to Melbourne’s Karen Paxman, it is no surprise to see that Mason describes herself as someone who “leaves everything on the field”. Along with what she self-proclaims as “decent hands” she is looking to improve all areas of her game to become the best possible player she can be.
“I do enjoy watching ‘Paxy’ quite a bit, I think she’s really good on the ball, good pressure, just someone I generally look at her game and see how she plays and try and put my game off that,” Mason said.
Mason has a preferred position of midfield and resting forward, but said she was willing to give any position a crack, though conceded she would be a “bit of a lost dog” in the defence having never played there previously.
Though Mason plays for Southern Power in the AFL Sydney Womens’ Premier Division, it is a little more than a quick trip down the road to fulfil her dream of getting to the top level.
“I actually live down the coast so training for me is an hour to an hour 40 away, occasionally we have a Summer Series which is two hours, but it’s just that commitment, it’s what you’ve got to do, happy to do it, especially for the training standard,” Mason said. “I think it’s been really good to just get around and get a bit of a travel. It’s good to see how everyone plays.”
Now in her top-age year, the AFLW Draft looming and nominated as the top Sydney Swans Academy player via the AFLW Academy representation, Mason is looking ahead to the future and hoping to reach the top level.
“I’d love to get as far as I can in my AFL career, hopefully AFLW but yeah just giving it my best and seeing where I can go,” she said.