Alice Mitchell is officially part of the nationwide AFLW competition.
At AFL headquarters, Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, the newly formed Sydney Swans AFLW used their 13th pick at the National AFLW draft in June to select Mitchell as a priority pick.
A Poochette at heart, Mitchell has represented the Gunnedah Bulldogs AFL club for the past two-and-a-half years in the AFL North West women’s competition.
Her draft selection is a celebration of perseverance; Mitchell is the epitome of hard work over talent as opposed to talent that hardly works.
What began as a childhood dream supporting the Sydney Swans – her favourite player growing up was Swans forward and 2016 AFL grand finalist Kurt Tippet – has had its fair share of swings and roundabouts. It culminated in her assertion to the professional realms of the AFL through the Swans AFLW.
Not since Sam Naismith – also claimed by the Sydney Swans in the 2013 AFL rookie draft at pick 59 – has a product from Gunnedah cracked the professional AFL list.
Born and raised in Sydney, Mitchell’s sporting tuition began for the Pittwater Tigers through junior AusKick at the tender age of nine.
Mitchell was the only girl on either side.
From there, an enthusiasm for AFL began to emanate, and throughout her schooling years that evidently went hand-in-hand with her gregarious talent.
She worked fastidiously hard at her AFL craft, evolving through her teen years to burst through the Sydney Metropolitan Women’s leagues as a potential star.
Primarily a midfielder performing the old fashioned centreman role, Mitchell was blessed with a rocket kick from her left foot dominance – her trademark in junior age groups. She still possesses a booming left foot kick which rivals men of similar age.
As participation of women playing AFL began to swell on the back of the newly formed AFLW competition in 2017, Mitchell began to progress through the conglomerate wave of talented women in AFL NSW.
In Mitchell, all the attributes of a star were evident and the hallmarks of a potential AFL future.
She possessed traits you can’t teach – a natural ability to mark the ball with hands in front of her eyes, above head, in contested and uncontested contests in combination with a ‘see-ball-get-ball’ attitude and a desire to win contested ground ball for her team.
These attributes were noticed on the representative circuits. Quickly key scouts and keen eyes for AFLW talent began swarming for Mitchell’s repertoire and skill set.
Standing at six foot on the old scale at age 18, a swelling growth of talent in the Sydney precinct started levitating toward playing AFL, including Mitchell who had the 2019 AFLW draft within her sights.
A stint in training for the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants through the 2019 winter series trials in a newly formed women’s side, showcased Mitchell’s ability to read the play well and difficulty to stop around the ground.
Shortly after, the unthinkable occurred and tragedy struck – fractures of not one, but both legs, and the AFL dream appeared dashed in an instant.
Mitchell believed her dream as a professional AFL player was lost in that moment.
“I had a motorbike accident, fractured both legs and thought the opportunity would be gone,” Mitchell said.
“I had full sights set on the draft (AFLW draft of 2019), having trained in the winter series of 2019 with the Giants (Greater Western Sydney).
“But yeah, I thought it was all over and didn’t think much more about AFL to honest,” a forthright Mitchell conceded.
A year later the world changed, for better or worse, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through Australia and world.
Mitchell gained the impetus to leave Sydney’s centre of sickness and spare her the suffocation of city life due to the pandemic. This became a blessing in disguise.
Relocating to the vast open spaces of country life in Gunnedah – due to her partner Will and the childhood location of his family upbringing – breathed new life into her AFL journey following the 2019 setback.
Swings and roundabouts for Mitchell – her AFL journey was reignited in her first training session with the Gunnedah Poochettes women’s side.
“I wasn’t keen to play all that much but got a tip off to go to training,” she said.
“[The Poochettes] had a new side forming and at the time I thought it would be the best way to meet new people and forge new friendships – I only knew my partner Will and his family.
“Since then I have absolutely loved every moment of training and obviously playing with such a fantastic bunch of girls.
“Those girls I played with then, and have continued to since joining the club, reignited my passion for the game without me really realising it at the time.
“It was just so much fun,” Mitchell enthused.
The 2020 year saw the Gunnedah Bulldogs extend the club into the women’s sector of the league, which had been growing since its inception in AFL North West in season 2017.
Wheels were set in motion for Mitchell’s ascendance to the big time, beginning an avalanche of team and personal accolades.
The cycle of sport through tragedy and despair radicalised Mitchell’s potential future, with a maiden premiership for the Poochettes and Mitchell in their first season in the AFLNW competition of 2020 under coach Sam Proudfoot.
Mitchell was named best on ground in the 2020 grand final triumph and runner-up in the AFLNW League fairest and best. But most treasured of all her accolades, Mitchell was named the Poochettes’ inaugural best and fairest for season 2020 with a maiden premiership to boot.
Personal success is nice, but it’s the attitude and commitment of her Poochettes, firstly as friends and team-mates, that are at the forefront of Mitchell’s mind.
Her personal achievement, she said, is the camaraderie she had and always will have, with her Poochettes team-mates.
“I will always maintain it’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing footy,” she said.
“The group of girls I spent two-and-a-half years with were the most amazing people I have ever met.
“Sounds simple, but you don’t take the field without team mates – it’s a team sport at the end of the day.
“I’m proud of what I have achieved since returning to footy, but I owe it to the girls I’ve met along the way.
“We haven’t been beaten for two years, I still say ‘we’ as a Poochette because they will always be a part of me no matter where my AFL journey takes me.”
Many of Mitchell’s new team-mates are in awe of the Gunnedah side’s achievement of remaining undefeated for two years.
“The girls I’ve met before and after the draft, during the summer series games (with the Swans) are amazed and can’t understand how that could be the case,” she said.
“Just an amazing bunch of girls, I never imagined it possible to get to where I am and a lot of it is thanks to those girls (The Poochettes),” Mitchell praised.
There is an extreme wealth of talent in the respective AFL competitions – the nation’s truly national football code – watch for the name Alice Mitchell to pop up as she skyrockets towards AFLW stardom.