28th February, 2022 — Women's Sport
Good Sports chats to AFLW star Vaomua Laloifi
“[Growing up] community sport was the way we gathered, it’s a language we could all understand. It was our way of connecting.”
Hey Mua, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today! How long have you been playing footy?
Only for about four years, I didn’t play as a kid. I picked it up in my early 20s. As a kid, I played basketball and volleyball. I was born in Samoa and raised on the North Island of New Zealand. It was around 2008 or 2009 when we moved to Australia, I was 15 or 16.
My first team that I played footy for was the ‘Old Zavs’ at Xavier College in Kew, Melbourne with their women’s program. It wasn’t until the second game with the team that I kind of felt like, hey this game isn’t actually too bad if I just worked on my running!
Then I started to build a passion through my friends barracking for their teams. I fell in love with footy, being in a squad that was so inviting and inclusive. Turned out I was okay at it!
I carried it on to AFLW from there. I’ve been playing in the AFLW for about three years now.
Was your family always into sport throughout your childhood?
Yes, my family is quite passionate about sport. Mum and dad played when they grew up. They were into basketball, volleyball and rugby. They’re die-hard rugby fans, we all watched that growing up.
Footy was a different kind of sport, it was foreign. I had to explain to my family how it works [once I started playing]!
What was the role of community sport for you growing up? What did you get out of the sports clubs you were part of when you were younger?
Community sport was the way we gathered, it’s a language we could all understand. When you play in a small community, it’s important. It’s how we bonded. The families came together to chat to each other and socialise. It was our way of connecting,
Do you think local sports clubs play a big part in role modelling for the younger generation?
I think so, it’s a way that kids grow up and it’s gives them an outlet. Especially for me, growing up in community that didn’t have much, it helps that build those friendships and brings enjoyment. I’ve got lifelong friends from sport. It’s so important in this day and age for young people to have an outlet. Sport is a really nice thing for kids to gravitate towards.
What’s your favourite thing about playing footy?
For me, I’ve always enjoyed the friendships that I get from it. You find good people you have a lot in common with. In a squad with 30 to 40 athletes, you’ve got so many friends!
Connection within the group forms and you make lifelong mates. You don’t realise how much it means until you can’t see them every day, like over the past couple of years [with COVID restrictions]. I’ve been reflecting on that.
I also love the competitiveness at an elite level. You celebrate the little wins along the way.
What advice would you give to any young women or girls who want to play sport professionally like you do?
Keep going at it. There’s a pathway that you can aspire to for football. If you love and have a passion for it, keep going.
Now, every year the women’s competition grows and that gives me a bit of hope for the future. There’s more of chance for it to go full time. As part time athletes, we’re juggling jobs while giving 100% to footy.
[The AFLW players] all want to be able to play full time. The sport is so taxing, and we want to be able to give our all to it. But we keep positive. It’s in a good place right now and it will just keep building.
Photo credit: Herald Sun