Wotherspoon’s whirlwind year ends in a red and blue call up

ONE of the newest AFLW Dees Ryleigh Wotherspoon has had one of the more unique journeys to the AFLW. Growing up as a multi-sport talented athlete, she is new to the game of Aussie rules but was quick to garner the interest of those in the league.

“I obviously was not expecting to be playing footy this year,” Wotherspoon said after being selected with Pick 12 by Melbourne.

“I had shoulder surgery at the start of the year and in my offseason – I’m a cricketer – so in the offseason I like to play a sport to keep myself fit and hang out with friends, so I decided to get back into footy because I was watching the Blues and I was like ‘damn I miss playing footy, might go back’.

“I went to Sherwood (Magpies, in Queensland) trainings and was running water for them while still out with injury and I wasn’t expecting to even get a match, but I kept my doing my rehab because I was really keen on trying to get a game and I finally got cleared and was able to play the final couple of games.

“After one game I got asked by the Lions if I could join in as a train-on, so I did that and then I really just loved it, I loved the opportunity, the development that came from it. Then signed with an agent because they saw some talent in me, so they were recommending I sign with someone so I did, and then that was kind of what prompted me to go into the draft.”

Cricket and now football are not her only high level pursuits, with the multi-sport star also a high level soccer player, reaching a number of state teams through her teen years. She played soccer from the age of five until 15, when cricket took over. In cricket, she made state teams and the Australian underage side at both 15 and 18.

These days she still plays soccer socially and first grade cricket in Brisbane. She has been lucky enough to call some big names of Australian cricket her teammates, including the likes of Grace Harris and Holly Ferling.

“Yeah that was pretty cool,” Wotherspoon said about what it was like to play with those big names.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to play against some really quality cricket players. I know I’ve batted a few times with Grace now, and the amount of power she uses to hit the ball is just amazing, her strength is incredible and very clean batter and very entertaining as well.

“Holly Ferling is one of the most down to earth people I’ve ever. She’s so lovely, has so much time to give back to cricket and junior cricketer, so those two girls I’m so lucky to be able to play against them and just the quality as a player and as a person, they’re both very valuable to the teams and it’s exciting to see them in the big leagues and succeeding.”

Wotherspoon said she loved her time at the Lions as a train-on player and “took so much out of it”.

“I thought it was really cool to be there, so I absorbed a lot of it and just being able to sit back and watch how the girls went about it, their professionalism on and off the field but also just having fun. I thought that was the main thing Brisbane did, they made it a really good environment, so they had lots of fun during training, very competitive and I was able to learn a lot from the players and when we did lines I was put into the backline to do some extra stuff, so I was able to learn from Shannon Campbell and Natalie Grider.

“I actually took a lot out of it and being quite new they were able to simplify things and gave me lots of time to understand, so they were giving me their time I was really just happy with that and I thought they were a really good bunch of girls and I was very excited for them to win the comp. They put in a lot of hard work behind the scenes and I could see that.”

Despite being classed as a defender during her time at the Lions, Wotherspoon sees herself as more of a midfielder because of her soccer past, but is also happy to be a utility. She regards reading the play as one of her strengths.

Going into the draft she was not sure Melbourne was going to draft her, but she had a strong hunch.

“I didn’t have a 100 per cent feeling, but I knew it was probably going to be between the Demons and the Lions,” Wotherspoon said. “Just with conversations with both clubs that I knew there was interest from both teams and there was who got the first pick at me with obviously Dees having two picks before and then Lions having two picks after.”

Despite being about to make a big move interstate at only 19 years-old, Wotherspoon is excited by the opportunity moving interstate will provide for her football.

“I’m actually really excited to explore this opportunity,” Wotherspoon said. “I think there’s lots of developing that can be done in Melbourne being the footy state, so I was actually quite open to the idea.

“Sometimes it was that idea probably was more exciting than the Brisbane one just in the ways that I thought for my footy and my game moving forward, just the room to develop and the resources and the VFL and that I thought that it was just going to be better for my footy and someone like me who hasn’t played much footy, there’s just a lot more ways to improve, coaches and don’t get me wrong there’s still quality coaches in Brisbane but just a lot more access to the resources down here.”

Despite being so busy on the field, Wotherspoon is also very busy off the field. She is currently studying Health and PE teaching, and is also a soccer, tennis and cricket coach.

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