One or the other, you can’t do both.
That’s what Bargo's Ashleigh Brazill was continually told growing up, as she tried to chase her passion for both netball and Aussie Rules football.
She played both as a kid – netball with Bargo Public School and the Wollondilly Netball Association, AFL with the Wollondilly Redbacks – but eventually had to make her decision.
She chose netball as, back then, there were more pathways for women to make a career out of netball than there were with the oval-ball sport.
But now, after years playing across the country, the former Picton High School student is finally playing both sports at an elite level with Victoria’s Collingwood Magpies.
“It’s great to be able to do both now,” she told the Advertiser.
“For so long football was something I almost had to do in secret, in the dark.
“I’m so grateful that Collingwood has given me the opportunity to fulfil a lifelong dream.”
The 27-year-old joins a handful of other cross-code players at the Magpies, and loves that there is a flexibility to play two sports at an elite level.
However, she hopes one day that isn’t the case.
“I love that I can play netball and football professionally, but I actually hope women’s sport gets to a level where you can only play one,” she said.
“I hope it becomes so professional that there is only enough time to play one sport.”
Brazill grew up with a love of both very different sports.
Netball was never a problem, but as she got into her teens the former Bargo local had to constantly prove that she could continue on the footy field.
“I could play mixed up to 13 with no problem,” she said.
“But when I was 14, 15, someone from the AFL had to come out every three or four weeks to make sure I was still coping playing with the boys.
“I had to stop at 15 when netball really took off.”
And netball took off in a big way for Brazill, who first studied at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra before representing the NSW Swifts and the Perth’s West Coast Fever.
In her five successful years in Perth – where she also played netball for Australia – Brazill only managed to play 10 football games.
She can’t wait for that to change.
“I moved to Collingwood for the challenge and I’m so excited to get started,” she said.
“We’re already in training and that’s definitely going to be a learning curve for me, going from one set of training to the next.
“But luckily the balls are two different shapes, so I won’t accidentally try and throw the Sherrin. If my other sport was soccer it might be a different story.”
Brazill said she was prepared for the extra scrutiny that would come with playing two sports at the same time.
“If I have an off day on the court people will think it’s because of my footy, and the other way around,” she said.
“I’m prepared for that and it’s something I’ll have to get used to. There’s definitely a lot more pressure there.”
The Magpie has some advice for younsters with a love of two sports.
“Just go for it,” she said.
“Don’t leave anything untried.
“Believe in yourself and give everything a go, don’t hold back.”
Collingwood play Carlton in the first AFLW match of 2018 on February 2.