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VFLW: Graham on the rise

VFLW: Meet Jacqueline Graham Jacqueline Graham speaks to Roar Vision about getting into football and her time at Tigerland.

Jacqui Graham always liked the idea of being a Tiger.

She grew up in the country town of Yea, with her local footy club being the Yea Tigers. With a women’s team not established, Graham would join in training with the boys.

She kept preoccupied with other sports such as netball, tennis, and swimming, anything on offer for girls in the small town. A handy golfer, she reduced her handicap to six as a teenager. 

But football was still on her mind.

Graham’s career was kick-started in 2017, when she was picked up in the VFLW academy after attending a talent ID day for cross-code sportswoman. From there, she played her first season at Diamond Creek.

“I was always willing to give any sport a crack. I followed that first year of AFLW and really loved that and I wanted to have a kick,” Graham said.

Not long after, she made an impact at Richmond’s come and try day.

Richmond AFL Women’s Football Operations Manager Kate Sheahan said Graham’s combination of speed and endurance stood out to the Richmond recruiters.

But by pre-season, they realised she offered much more than just an ability to run. 

“It’s her courage. She’s the one girl that every week you know she’s going to run back with the flight of the ball, regardless of what’s coming behind her, and take those overhead marks,” Sheahan said.

“We just marvel at her bravery, decision-making and leadership. She’s the ultimate professional.” 

Graham said she was immediately attracted to Richmond’s elite facilities, professional environment and supportive coaches and staff.

“It’s a great team to be a part of. Especially with the team starting from scratch and everyone’s coming from different teams, and lots of people travelling long distances. So, it makes up quite a unique group of people.” Graham said. 

A key defender for the Tigers, Graham has been instrumental in leading Richmond’s back six.

The 165cm pocket rocket is a fearless competitor who wins contested ball and rarely fumbles. She locks down her opponents effortlessly and has elite ball-winning ability.

Sheahan said she would be shocked if AFLW clubs weren’t looking at Graham for the 2019 season.

“She can play a variety of roles, whether that’s off half-back or a run through the midfield. And she’s got that run and speed that you really need in AFLW now,” Sheahan said. 

“She just knows her role, she knows how to execute it, and she does it with no fuss.”

Graham said she would welcome the opportunity to take her football to the next level and play in the AFLW. 

But for now, she is loving every minute at Tigerland.

“I’ve absolutely loved playing in the VFLW and with the Tiges. It’s a great club to be a part of and that’s where I feel at home,” she said.

When she’s not wearing the yellow and black, Graham is working as a paramedic for Ambulance Victoria. She mostly works night shifts to ensure that she is available for game day and training sessions. 

While it can be demanding juggling paramedics with football, Graham is adamant the two commitments make up an integral part of her life.

“Being a paramedic is the most satisfying thing about my life. Every day I go to work with something new and different and it’s always rewarding,” she said.

The VFLW Tigers are back at the Swinburne Centre this weekend, where they play NT Thunder on Saturday at 12:00pm.

The team will introduce two debutants, Ruby Edmeades and Jacqueline Radnell.

Tiger fans can follow play-by-play updates on the Richmond Women’s Twitter account.

RICHMOND  v NT THUNDER
Round 11 – 21/07/2018
12:00PM
Swinburne Centre
Richmond

B: 84. L. Bieniara, 63. J. Graham, 69. E. Burry
HB: 83. J. Gardner, 73. L. Davie, 64. E. Gunn
C: 60. K.  Dempsey, 89. G.  Deller, 75. B.  Lynch
HF: 80. J. Louttit, 71. R. Edmeades, 55. C. Wakefield
F: 82. G. Bibby, 90. S. Damon, 72. J. Radnell
R: 62. T. Muller, 59. A. Woodward, 52. J. Kennedy
Int: 54. L. Bailey, 53. K. Dixon, 88. P. Monahan, 76. E. Ross
Emg: 85. N. Clarke, 61. J. Colwell, 81. E. George, 79. L. Tesoriero
23P: 67. N. Bamblett 

In: T. Muller, J. Colwell, R. Edmeades, J. Radnell, E. George, N. Clarke, P. Monahan
Out: J. Hocking,  G. Egan,  A. Edmonds