Gunnedah’s Alice Mitchell didn’t think she would be playing AFL ever again, let alone sign for the Sydney Swans’ inaugural women’s team.
The Swans announced the signing of Mitchell alongside five other players ahead of its introduction into the AFLW later in the year.
Mitchell has a long history in the game, dating back to her time with the Pittwater Tigers in Sydney as the only girl in the team at nine years old. She later played representative football but was hit with a major injury setback that left the 20-year-old not knowing whether she would pick up the football competitively ever again.
“I didn’t think I would be playing AFL again,” Mitchell told the Gunnedah Times.
“When I moved to Gunnedah in 2020, the only thing I could do to meet people was to play a sport and AFL was obviously my first choice.
“I felt there were no expectations with it being the first women’s team the Bulldogs have ever had.”
Mitchell led the side to a premiership in its first season and is hurt not being able to compete with her friends and teammates in 2022.
“I know they’ll be cheering me on this season,” she said.
“I can’t thank the team enough, they’re pretty much the reason why I’m here. They have been so incredibly supportive the whole way through.
“They have been with me every step of the way.”
In 2021, Mitchell finished the AFL North West season, second in the best and fairest voting along with leading the league in scoring with 40 goals.
For the Swans, she will have a completely different role, signed as a defender.
Swans’ AFLW head coach Scott Gowans spoke about Mitchell’s performances in the ‘Summer Series’.
“Alice is a tall defender who can go forward,” Gowans said.
“She has elite hands and a left foot that can find targets. We like that she takes the game on, and she works hard to grow her craft.
“We have Gunnedah volunteer Alan Martin to thank for alerting us to Alice. We watched her closely during the first game of the ‘Summer Series‘ and gave her some feedback on a few things to try.
“She executed on those in her performance during matches in Canberra, and that got her over the line.”
Although being a natural scorer, Mitchell described the move to defence as a “blessing in disguise”.
“In the Summer Series, the ball was in the defence the majority of the time so I got the ball a fair bit,” Mitchell said.
“I like to think I’m more of a utility player where I can be thrown anywhere and do the job.”
Mitchell spoke about her emotions after finding out about the Swans’ interest following the series.
“Scott texted me saying he wanted to give me a call and I was like ‘oh my god, he’s actually going to call me’ and I was speechless,” Mitchell said.
“All the emotions started to settle in when I called my family and I started crying on the phone. They were so proud of me and for my dad it was like a dream come true for him.”
After the Swans showed interest in Mitchell, she travelled to Sydney to the team’s headquarters for an interview where the 20-year-old declared her commitment for the season which will begin in August.
With a long list of former and current legendary AFL players, Mitchell said it was “a pinch yourself moment”.
“Going to the headquarters last week and walking through the same halls as the biggest legends of the game like Buddy Franklin and Adam Goodes, I was thinking I can’t believe this is actually happening and I’m standing in the same spot they were standing,” she said.
“I get the chance to play for the team I have been supporting since I was a little girl, this is a huge dream of mine.”
“I didn’t think there was a future for me in AFL but to think I could be potentially playing for the Swans’ AFLW team, it’s mindblowing.”
The Swans’ first foray in the AFLW will come in August as clubs approved of the new start date with hopes of moving the competition away from the summer period.
The Swans will be joined by Essendon, Hawthorn and Port Adelaide with all 18 AFL clubs to now be represented in the women’s competition.
Mitchell will turn her attention to maintaining her fitness and AFL skills in the meantime with a program set-out by the Swans before moving to Sydney in early June to join the squad for pre-season.