Courageous Rigter enjoying Sturt’s Sister Act

STEPPING into a senior team when your sister is the captain can have its perks and its disadvantages, but Abbey Rigter has enjoyed donning the Double Blues colours with older sibling, Maya. She came into Sturt’s South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s team last season, and was a key part of the previously league battler’s rise to the 2022 decider.

The younger Rigter hails from Mount Lofty where she started playing football in 2018. After realising her talent and desire to go further, the junior moved to Blackwood where she then went through the Sturt juniors. As a bottom-age talent last season, she stepped into the seniors alongside her older sister.

Though challenging at times, Rigter said she enjoyed playing alongside her sister, even though there are natural hurdles to overcome.

“It started off setting a couple of boundaries about what we talk about and what we don’t,” Rigter said. “She’s the captain and she knows a lot more about personal stuff with the coaches so we just can’t, I understand that you won’t tell me that and I just won’t ask questions about that.

“But in terms of playing, it’s great, we rock up on game days together, go to training, set our goals with each other and know each other as a player. We obviously play at different ends of the field but collectively we come together and talk about it and run it down and it’s pretty amazing.”

The younger Rigter plays as a permanent forward, a role that saw her net 16 goals in 15 games and averaged 6.5 disposals and 1.0 marks in her debut season. She also laid 3.2 tackles per game and had around an inside 50 per match, though was best known for her impact on the scoreboard. Her sister Maya has become a rock solid defender, having overcome successive ankle injuries after being an inside midfielder in her teenage years.

Rigter said Maya was one of many players she looked up to at the club, with players both older and younger leading by example and helping guide her through her junior career at senior level.

“My sister Maya definitely look up to her, being living in the same house as her since they were losses and all the tough times at Sturt,” she said. “We have a really good leadership group at Sturt. Girls who aren’t named in the leadership group, I think everyone’s a leader in their own way.”

Describing her greatest strength as her courage, Rigter said she was hoping to learn more in her role as a forward, but most importantly focus on helping the team go one better in 2023. Last season the Double Blues went down in heartbreaking fashion to North Adelaide, with Rigter aware she had entered the team at a good time.

“I think being a new one in the team but watching on for the past five years or so, it’s been tough on the girls not winning heaps, but I think this year it really showed us the hard work they’ve but in the past five years and the coaches, and I think it was really nice to see that pay off for us as a team,” she said.

“But also collectively the girls have been there for more of a while, it was a really good experience seeing them. Even though we didn’t get the chocolates at the end, it was a great experience, we know what we’re fighting for at the end of next year.”

Now all eyes focus on 2023, where Rigter is driven to enjoy the premiership success that eluded her side this season. While the AFL Women’s Draft might be on the horizon for the soon-to-be 18-year-old, the Sturt forward is focusing on what she can help control.

“As a team I think we really just want to finish off what we started last season and win the premiership but I think our culture’s great and everything we’ve got going for us, so we’ve just got to put into practice what we know and go a bit harder,” she said.

The 2023 SANFL Women’s season kicks off on February 17 with Sturt making the trek down the coast to Flinders University Stadium on February 18 to tackle the Panthers.

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