The Caloundra Panthers finally have a senior women’s side and their coach is ready for her players to make their mark

by SEANNA CRONIN

Aussie rules football is in Kellie Blokkeerus’s blood.

Since moving to the Sunshine Coast three years ago with wife Lucy Hellard and daughter Willow, the Melbourne native and Collingwood supporter has spearheaded calls for a senior women’s team in Caloundra.

“We became quite friendly with Panthers captain Jacob Watson and the men’s senior team at the gym. We’d go watch Jacob play … I kept on him, saying ‘When are you going to get a women’s team?’ We kept talking about it and now it’s happened. It’s quite fulfilling to be honest,” Kellie tells the Sunny Coast Times.

But what started as a bucket-list wish to lace up her footy boots after more than two decades off the field has turned into a head coaching role for the 49-year-old.

“I’d been training the girls for a while and the committee said ‘Kellie just do it’ and I made the commitment (to be coach),” she says.

“Originally, I just wanted to play. The reason why I decided to go back to football is it was on my bucket list to put the footy boots back on before I turn 50.”

Kellie played her first game of junior football in the under-10s and continued playing into her teens. 

“There were only two girls in the whole league in Victoria back then,” she says.

“Then I started playing women’s cricket and field hockey. I played hockey quite successfully at the state level for Victoria from 16 until I was 21.

“Then someone I knew from cricket said ‘come play footy’ and I showed up and Debbie Lee was captain.” 

Kellie went on to play four years in the VWFL for St Albans Spurs and Sunshine Spurs. She looks back fondly on her time with Debbie, the first woman inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

“Back then football was a hard slog. To get a group together to train, it was the power of Debbie – her grunt, her grit,” Kellie says.

“I’m super proud of somebody who just sticks with their passion and Debbie gave up a lot. She’s a typical larrikin who loves her football … God did we love our footy trips.”

Kellie has shown plenty of her own grit building the Panthers’ Division 2 team in a matter of months.

“I had the pressure that if I didn’t have 16 players registered at a certain time, they were going to can it,” she says.

“It was challenging but bloody rewarding now we’ve got the tick that we’re in the league. Our momentum right now is through the roof. The day I run out for the first game with these girls is going to be extremely emotional.”

Players range in age from 18-48 and vary in playing experience from state level to none at all. 

“Having a team that’s mixed in where they are in their football knowledge is a juggle. Safety is the most important thing – they need to understand the game and the knocks,” Kellie says. 

“The second most important thing is we have fun, and the third is we all stick together. We’re in a level where we want to have some fun and play.”

An early recruit was Daisy Ware, 23, who moved to the Coast from Batemans Bay in NSW last year. 

“I have grown up watching my three brothers play AFL and I am so proud to now be playing the sport myself and watching the growth of not only our team, but women in this game,” Daisy says.

“Training has been great for fitness and team building, and with that comes the social aspect of meeting new people and sharing a passion to get out there and have some fun.”

The Panthers play their first practice match against the Redcliffe Tigers on April 2 at Carter Park in Caloundra before their season officially kicks off on April 23.

Kellie is on the hunt for a major sponsor for the women’s side and is passionate about getting sponsorship for both men’s and women’s guernseys for the 2022 season’s indigenous and pride rounds. 

“The pride round is really special to me. Coming out with my sexuality at 16 or 17 was a big thing. Now I’m a life coach and my whole mission is helping LGBTIQA+ people through their battles,” she says.

“I’ve never had so much fire in my belly. A legacy I want to leave for the younger generation is that anything’s possible if you want it.”

 

For more information on the Caloundra Panthers’ senior women’s team, email Kellie at kellieblokk17@gmail.com or go to aflcaloundra.com.

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