ALTHOUGH twenty-three year old Rhianna Nelson is over the moon with what she has already achieved in her young career, she won’t rest until she has achieved everything she can in the sport – including potentially being drafted to an AFL Women’s team.
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After starting her career at Auskick with Bundaberg’s Across the Waves Eagles, Nelson has enjoyed stints with Brisbane’s Coorparoo Navy Roos and most recently the Australian Defence Force Academy Rams.
On top of that, the future HMAS Albatross Sub-Lieutenant, has enjoyed two successful representative campaigns with the Navy women’s team, at the Inter Service Championships, held in Melbourne each March.
“This year, I unfortunately was only able to play in the Navy vs Army game due to work commitments, which we fought hard in but couldn't get the win,” Nelson said.
“However the girls were able to get up and defeat the Air Force.
“The Army has definitely been the team to beat for the last few years, as they have some very strong female footballers, but the Navy girls are very competitive and we'll be looking to take the title in 2019.”
Despite only playing one match during the championships, Nelson thoroughly enjoyed her second chance to pull on the Navy guernsey – alongside HMAS Albatross’ Alanna Impson.
“We able to gel together as a team very quickly during training, which definitely gave an us advantage in the tournament,” she said.
“We're lucky to have a very dedicated coach in lieutenant commander Elizabeth Quinn, who is a very talented coach and she knows smart football.
“The plan she had was very good and it obviously worked well in the Air Force game – perhaps after trialling it in the Army game, the girls were able to perfect it more the second time around, as we just weren't able to execute it well enough in the Army game.
“The improvement in performance over two weeks was amazing especially at the start of the year, when a lot of the girls haven't played football in a while – I think we definitely had the talent and teamwork to pull off the Army game, we just couldn't quite get there.
“The development program Quinn and her team have put in place is a positive step for Navy Women's AFL and definitely a step towards taking back the trophy.”
Midfielder Nelson was rewarded for her strong performances on the field, by being named in the ADF All Stars Women’s Team, selected from the carnival – which led to her playing for the ADF side.
“Playing for Navy is definitely a personal achievement for me however being selected to play in the ADF team was my biggest football achievement thus far,” she said.
“Then to come away from that with the coaches award just topped it off.
“It is an amazing experience and another opportunity to develop, so I continue to encourage my team mates at the Australian Defence Force Academy to get involved and see where it takes them.
“With the development of AFLW we've seen a lot more interest from women wanting to give AFL a go which is awesome to see.”
As mentioned, Nelson is also part of the ADFA women’s team which plays in the Canberra competition – a side which is coached by HMAS Albatross Rear Admiral Col Lawrence.
“Col coached the ADFA Women's team this year and we hope he'll be back next year to continue, as this year was easily the most successful we’ve been in a number of years,” she said.
“To take a team at the beginning of the year with not much playing experience at all and develop them into confident footballers and make finals is amazing.
“I've never met someone so passionate about football, even if only a handful of girls are able to make it to training he's still there to train us.
“As a tri-service team, his development of the ADFA team is so beneficial for the three service teams in providing them with quality footballers for the Inter Service Championship.”
Despite having her best year to date on the field, Nelson in contemplating having a year off, to finish her training and move to HMAS Albatross.
“I'll potentially be having a year off from the footy season in 2019 to complete my job training,” she said.
“But my sights are set on the AFLW draft for the 2020 season, so I won't be letting my skills drop that's for sure.”
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