Published: 31 Jan 2022
Please note: Images in this article were taken before current COVID-19 safety measures were in place.
Many children grow up playing footy in their backyard, dreaming of one day playing for an Australian rules football team.
Tyla Hanks, 21, is one of the lucky few who turned that dream into a reality.
The talented young player was destined for greatness from an early age.
She recalls kicking the footy around and learning from her dad, before she was even five-years-old.
“My dad always loved footy and the love for the game definitely runs in the family,” she said.
Once she was old enough, Tyla joined the AusKick program in the Cardinia Shire town of Nar Nar Goon, near where she lived.
“I remember being the only girl out there,” she said.
“I did AusKick for a couple of years and then started playing in the under 9s at Cora Lynn with the boys.”
Continuing her football journey, she went on to play for Beaconsfield in Melbourne’s southeast and had many matches at Casey Fields multi-sports complex, a short drive south in Cranbourne East.
As she entered her teens, her chances of becoming a professional footballer began to fade. With little opportunity for women to play in elite football leagues across Victoria, Tyla applied her athletic ability to other sports and turned her attention to pursuing a career playing basketball.
“There was a time when I was younger that thought I would be the first woman to play with the boys in the AFL,” she laughed.
“Then, unfortunately, I thought I was going to have to let the footy dream go and try to make a career out of basketball, so I started to focus on that.
“However, when I was about 16 years old, AFLW was launched and the future of women’s footy seemed bright, so I was excited to put all my energy back into footy again.”
Determined to succeed, Tyla was drafted to Melbourne Football Club in 2018, just one year after the AFLW was established.
She takes pride in her team’s home ground, Casey Fields, having great memories of playing there when she was a junior at Beaconsfield.
Casey Fields received an $8 million makeover last year, which included $5 million in state government funding, and additional funding from the AFL and City of Casey.
It now has new, cutting-edge facilities such as a strength and conditioning centre an indoor training space, AFLW standard changeroom, a team theatre, an ice bath and physiotherapy, medical training and rehabilitation areas.
“For a long time we didn’t have a specific space for the girls, and we were just moving between spots or using public changerooms,” Tyla said.
“People who come to Casey Fields to play are blown away by the facilities now.
“This upgrade highlights the overwhelming amount of support women’s footy has received in recent years and it’s another encouraging sign for young girls that their footy dreams can one day become true.”