Fierce Falcon flying in new home

NEW Darebin Falcons co-captain Caitlin Bunker made what turned out to be a life changing decision five years ago, and has never looked back since.

Originally a Canberran, she moved to Melbourne in 2019, which also started her VFL Women’s journey.

Reflecting on her decision to move, Bunker pointed to several factors in making the call.

“There’s music, there’s footy, it’s a sport capital,” she said.

“There was work, there was friends moving here and I was ready for a change. But footy was definitely a huge part of it and a huge part of what has kept me here, and I’ve now met my wife and Melbourne’s home now.”

2019 was also the first year Bunker was on the list at Collingwood, where she was “the last list spot signed” that year for the Magpies. She went on to become vice-captain of a premiership winning side.

Bunker was soon promoted to captain to lead the Magpies through a really strong period of their VFLW history.

She said that becoming captain “one of the highlights” of her career.

“All of that success was something that I was really proud of, but I think the reason I’m proud of it is because I was involved with the other leaders at the time in creating a culture that wasn’t just about success on the field, but actually how we bring the best out of every single person on our list,” she said.

Bunker’s time as captain of the Pies also had a number of low points, as well as the plentiful of ups.

2021 saw an undefeated Collingwood side denied the opportunity to officially complete back-to-back premierships, which Bunker described as being “heartbreaking at the time”.

Collingwood would finally get another chance at premiership glory in 2023, but ultimately fell short against Port Melbourne.

“I think a few rounds out the end of the year [2023], we didn’t even know if we’d make finals and then just a few results went our way over the course of two weeks and we ended up minor premiers,” she said.

“I didn’t feel that weight of expectation because we hadn’t built that up all season. It just kind of happened. But we had such a tight knit group, and having worked with Chloe McMillan for so many years, I would have loved to have gotten the flag for her in that game.

“I’m sad that we didn’t, but I was also just so proud of the fact that we got there and that it was really such a team effort.”

Ultimately, 2023 would be Bunker’s last year as a Pie, with the fierce midfielder making the move across to Darebin last off-season.

“There were changes in the direction that the club wanted to go and where it valued women’s footy,” Bunker said.

“As I get older and consider my coaching and playing aspirations, I wanted to go to a club where their women’s program was everything to the club.

“The values at Darebin align with me personally and they’re really trying to create a culture here where everybody feels welcome and everyone’s given equal opportunity, and that’s something that really appeals to my values and at the end of the day, you’ve got to go where your values align.”

Those values is what was the driving factor for Bunker’s club choice, more so that whether the club was AFLW aligned or not.

“I think it’s a factor for a lot of players who are considering where to take their careers, but I think the purpose of the league has changed a lot year on year.

“I’m 30 years old, I’ve put my hand up for the draft for quite a few years and it sort of never materialised for me. So I wouldn’t say that it was my biggest priority being in the eyes of sort of an AFL club. It’s less about whether it was AFL or VFL aligned and more about the gel that I had with the coach and with the club and the values of the community that support the club.”

Bunker has plenty in her life to keep her busy both on and off the football field.

“I’ve grown up a lot in the five, six years that I’ve been playing in the VFLW,” she said. “I got married to my wife a year ago. We’re thinking about what our family looks like in the future and I’m working with this amazing organisation called Pride Cup.

“We work to create inclusive pride rounds and pride games for sporting clubs all over the country and I deliver LGBTIQ inclusion education for them. I just would say that I’m in a really sweet spot in life, in my footy career and at home as well.”

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