From sleeping on a mate’s kitchen floor before her Punt Road recruitment to enjoying the Richmond’s first AFLW victory last week, Tiger original Bec Miller says she is “living the dream”.
But in detailing the juggle and struggle it takes to be self-sufficient, further professional pursuits and a footy career, the 25-year-old does not pretend it’s easy.
>> LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW IN THE PODCAST BELOW
She also hopes AFLW footballers will earn a significantly better living within five years.
Tearful in this week’s episode of The Originals podcast, Miller reflects on last seeing her family in-person, nine months ago, and explains how she sacrificed Christmas plans for footy.
Her prioritising of AFLW, while counterintuitive financially has seen her drop to casual worker status through a boss Miller feels indebted to.
Miller is balancing her commitment to AFLW with working about 25 hours a week for All in One, a Melbourne labour hire company.
“I feel like I’m one of the very lucky ones,” she says.
Because while she has a hugely supportive employer it’s still a physical and logistical stretch.
“We’re expected to be full-time athletes on a part-time salary,” Miller says.
“You want to give all the time and devote yourself fully to it (AFLW). It’s just not possible when you’re not being able to get enough to live off, I guess.
“Wherever I can I will prioritise AFLW … maybe working less and being paid less, but … I do recognise this is such a short part of my life and I will look back on it one day and think ‘how did I do it?’
“To be full-time athletes would just be incredible. I hope it’s within the next five years or so. I think that’s realistic. I really do.”
Launching her Aussie Rules mission from Sydney, Miller has fond and vivid memories of her first trial at Punt Road Oval before she was picked for the Tigers’ 2019 VFL squad. She made the VFLW team of the year that season.
“I knew one person in Melbourne…and she was from high school in Wagga. I called and said ‘can I stay at your place?’ She said: ‘yep, no problem, no worries, we’re struggling for a bit of space though, you’re going to have to sleep on my kitchen floor’.
“So I literally slept on her kitchen floor for three nights on a dodgy mattress but I did not complain because I was there, I was in Melbourne and I was chasing my footy dream.
“She was kind enough, my friend, to drop me off for the first session on the Wednesday and … I remember getting onto the oval for training and thinking: ‘I could eat my dinner off this it’s so smooth it’s like a perfect oval!’
“To Richmond’s credit they were totally up front and said ‘we don’t pay anyone to move, we don’t pay you to play, this is all off your own bat’.
“They were totally up front and of course [for] women’s footy I didn’t expect too much … I was just so excited. So excited.
”The Tigers have become “a second family instantaneously” for Miller. She moved to Melbourne within a month, found a place to live and a new job. And now?
“I really am living the dream,” she says.
“People laugh at me when I say that, but playing for Richmond footy club at Punt Road Oval, I’ve got a great boss, I get a convertible as part of my job, I have a great girlfriend – I’m living the dream!
“In terms of this group, I think there’s something special being built here. I really do. It may not be evident straight away but good things take time and I think this group’s going to blossom into something pretty special.”
The Originals is sponsored by WISE Employment, helping people who have employment barriers, including mental illness and disability, find meaningful work.
Find out more at wiseemployment.com.au or call 1800 685 105.