It can be said that Australia has an affinity for contact sports. Sports like Rugby and Australian Rules Football (AFL) are well known for their contact and hard-nosed style, and both of which are cornerstones of Australian sporting culture. But one sport that follows in the same mould, but never really gained the same attention and affinity is American Football, also known as Gridiron.
But Gridiron is starting to catch pace and interest; and this is due to the efforts of the women who make up the Australian National Gridiron Team, who are currently in their last stages of preparation for the IFAF World Championships, which will take place in Canada in June. One of the women who has stood out in regards to both her drive and determination, but also her love and desire for the spread of the sport is Renee Targett.
She is relatively new to the sport, finding her way there through her background in Touch Football and Rugby Union, but after being introduced to it by her partner, she was hooked, and within a very short time found herself at the National Selection Camp for Gridiron Australia. Now she finds herself as a Safety on Gridiron Australia’s defense, and alongside 41 other women from all over Australia who are stepping onto the new ground as pioneers for the sport in Australia, and especially for women.
But one of the things that come with being a pioneer, is that you are set with creating that new path for others to follow you in. When you are creating such a path, it involves a lot of out-of-the-box thinking and teamwork and ultimately figuring out ways to encourage others to join in and pay attention to what you are doing. In the case of Gridiron, fitting between sports like AFL and Rugby Union which are engrained into Australian sporting culture could be thought of as a challenge, but if anything it has spurred on Renee and her team to find new ways to teach people about the sport, and to encourage them to try it themselves.
Because in their eyes, Gridiron has so many positive qualities to teach. Things like teamwork, goal-setting, determination, and discipline are learned on the field, but off the field, Gridiron teaches you about trust, about community, about leadership, being a good teammate, and in essence creates a sort of community within it. As you are fighting alongside the same teammates every play in the goal of making it to the other team’s end zone, you create a sort of comradery that is different from other sports. Because you are all working together towards that same goal, and through each person’s role in each play, you all succeed together or you fail together. That kind of dynamic creates an atmosphere in which you have to learn to trust your teammates, believe in each other, and together rise to the challenge through encouragement and teamwork. All qualities that are present in many aspects of life, and many according to Renee, that are needed to be taught to the next generation.
One of the fascinating things about Renee is how she has become so engrossed and in love with this sport. How she can’t see herself walking away from it now, and how she feels like an ambassador for the sport in Australia and feels responsible for teaching others about it, and encouraging others, especially young women to take up the sport. Even though more exposure is needed for the sport as a whole, the spark is there now, and combined with the tried-and-tested “give it a go” mentality that Australians love, she feels that it is only a matter of time before Gridiron becomes a mainstay within Australian sporting culture, and where athletes from the other contact sports can jump across or between, and use the skills from these sports to improve Gridiron in Australia further.
And what comes next for Renee? She wants to continue developing and growing within the sport, and use the skills and qualities gained from it to further develop herself into her future profession within the education field. One of the strongest lessons that the sport has given her revolves around dealing with hardships and failure, where in her words
“Gridiron teaches you to get back up again. That when you are down, you have people that want you to succeed, and so you need to get back up and keep going.”
And with the drive and determination that she and her teammates on the Australian National Gridiron Team have shown thus far, there is no limit to how far they will go on the field, and off of it as well.
You can contribute to Renee’s GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for her trip to Canada for the World Championships, and you can also contribute by clicking the relevants links on the Gridiron Australia website here.