From Rye to a pie

By Joe Novella Photos Gary Sissons & AFL Photos

Our beautiful Peninsula is full of great people, produce, fantastic eateries and spectacular scenery; we all know that. But how many of us know that it is also a breeding ground for AFL talent including the likes of Tom Lynch (Richmond), Jacob Weitering (Carlton) and Lachie Whitfield (GWS), all of whom played their junior footy on the fields and grounds of the ‘Ninch’. However it’s not just the boys of the Peninsula who are going on to play at the elite levels and becoming champions of their game; our home ground can also lay claim to the development of an AFLW champ-in-the-making in the form of Jordyn Allen.

Jordyn (Jordy) was sports mad from the time she could walk and talk, “Sport was my only interest as a kid,” she told me during a recent interview, “and my parents encouraged me to try my hand at all sports, so I did, starting with motocross as well as tennis, netball, nippers and footy.”

Nowadays Jordy is a well-respected AFLW player with the Collingwood Football Club but her journey to the top of her chosen sport started at the Rye Junior Football Club. “I was born in Rosebud Hospital and lived most of my life in Rye, just moving recently, so I’m pretty much ‘Ninch’ born and bred.”

Jordy’s not the only junior from Rye JFC to make it to the big time with the likes of Georgia Walker and Luke Davies-Uniacke also going on to play at the highest level. According to Jordy, the lure of playing AFL footy was not the reason she first pulled on the boots for the Rye Demons. “AFLW wasn’t a ‘thing’ when I first started,” she said. “My main reason for starting was to follow my brother, Jackson. When I was a kid, I just wanted to do what Jackson did. I found what he did much more interesting than what other girls my age were doing. Mum would try to get me to do other stuff like horse riding, scared that I might break too many bones following my brother, but back then I would rather follow Jackson and do motocross and footy. Jackson was my inspiration really.”

Jordy’s progression through the ranks as a junior involved playing with and against the boys from U10s to U14s and then against girls much older than herself. At 14 her talent was recognised and she entered elite development pathways that included being part of the Dandenong Stingrays Youth Girls Academy. At 15, Jordy was playing on the hallowed turf of the MCG as vice-captain of the Vic Metro team that won the U16 AFL Youth Girls National Championship. Jordy was awarded MVP honours in the Grand Final of those championships for her sterling defensive work that led to many referring to her as ‘The Rock from Rye’.

From 2016 Jordy’s rise was meteoric with honours and awards including:

• 2 x Under18 All-Australian honours: 2017, 2018

• Dandenong Stingrays Captain: 2017–2018

• Vic Country Captain: 2018

• Dandenong Stingrays Best and Fairest: 2018

Jordy was drafted by Collingwood as their first selection in the 2018 AFLW draft when she was 18 years-old, and has now completed her third season with the club. “I’d never really considered a career as a professional sports person when growing up,” Jordy said. “I was just doing stuff for fun and the love of it but the explosion of women’s football and the formation of the AFLW meant a professional sports career was possible for me.

And I was thrilled to go to Collingwood. When you think of footy you think of Collingwood; it’s a destination club with world class facilities at the Holden Centre and I really love being a part of the set-up.”

I asked Jordy what it was like when she first got to Collingwood, moving from an amateur to a professional environment. “All the girls were bigger than me; that’s the first thing I had to cope with. There were girls who had professional careers in other sports or had been playing professionally and they were physically a lot stronger. So I focused on what I could do well, which was kick and handball, and I tried to make sure that I played to my strengths. And I never forgot why I started playing football; that helped me keep grounded and helped me to push through injuries and rehab and times when things didn’t go my way.”

So why did you start playing football? I asked. “For the love of the game,” Jordy responded. “As a kid I’d kick the ball around with my cousins and my brother and I loved it. I remember the pure joy of it. I wanted to keep kicking the footy around all the time. As soon as I forget that love of the game or don’t feel it anymore, and footy becomes just a job in a huge business environment, well, then, I think that’s the time for me to hang up the boots.”

So how does Jordy cope with the stress and demands of a high-performance environment like the AFLW? “Keeping interests outside of footy helps me stay happy and grounded including going for a surf, a bike ride or a hit of tennis; anything to keep my body moving,” she said.

And getting back to the Peninsula, maybe, I wondered?

“Yeah, I love getting back to the ‘Ninch’ when I can to catch up with family and friends and to take part in a few clinics for local footy clubs.”

I asked Jordy, how it felt to be a role model for the girls that go along to the clinics, most of them wanting to be just like her. “I don’t take it for granted, the way these young girls aspire to be like me. I’m aware of the responsibility I have in helping to shape the growth of women’s football going forward so all these kids at clinics can have the same opportunities as I did.” And what about Jordy’s role models? “I really look up to women like AFLW’s Daisy Pearce who blazed a trail for our sport as well as cricket’s Ellyse Perry and surfing legend, Sally Fitzgibbons.”

“And what about life after footy?” I asked, thinking a 20-year-old living out her football dream probably hasn’t thought that far ahead. I was wrong. “I’m doing a Bachelor’s degree in Paramedicine,” said Jordy. “One, because it really interests me and, two, for something to fall back on when my professional footy career is done and dusted.”

Jordy’s response shouldn’t have surprised me because what comes through in our conversation is her maturity for one so young, and how grounded she is for one who has achieved so much in such a short space of time. Has the success changed her in any way? “No, I don’t think so,” she said. “I’m always going to be the girl from the Peninsula, and I always keep in mind who helped me get here and how much I love the game. If I wasn’t at Collingwood, I’d be just as happy in Rye, having a kick with mates, but now I’m here I’m going to give it all I have.”

Good luck Jordy, from your home crowd on the peninsula.

Peninsula Essence – July 2021