North-West to 100 games
Saturday, 3rd August, 2019
By Tyler Hannigan
West’s Rachael Wheatley will join the 100-game club later today when she runs out against South at the Alma Oval.
Wheatley started her football career at North before switching to the Robins. She may not have started in the red and black but she’s a fully-fledged Robin now.
“I think I am,” Wheatley admitted. “I played my first five years with the North girls and then came over to West because they really needed players and I was brought straight into the Robins nest!
“When I came over to play, the West girls were struggling to have anywhere from 15 to 18 players each week, whereas at North at that time we had 30-plus players.
“They’re an absolutely fantastic bunch of girls.”
When Wheatley first joined the West women’s side they were the easy beats of the competition and were in the midst of a huge losing streak. Now, the Robins sit clear on top of the ladder and have all but secured their first grand final appearance in the competition’s short history.
“It’s amazing actually,” Wheatley said of the turnaround.
“We’ve gone from being beaten by 100 points and not being able to score at all to now sitting on top of the ladder.”
Despite not getting to play until later in life, Wheatley has grown up around football.
“I’m a bit old to have been playing as a kid,” she joked.
“But I used to kick the footy around with some of the boys back in high school and have always loved the game. I was always a ‘Northie’ growing up and went to the club most weekends, my dad was a huge part of the North Football Club.
“So when the women’s league was starting up I was straight on to it.”
Given her history with North and that now she’s a part of West’s push for a first ever flag, Wheatley can be forgiven for feeling a little conflicted when it comes to watching football.
“I call myself the ‘North-Westie’,” Wheatley said.
“I’m never not going to be a ‘Northie’, I was born and bred out there but I love everyone at both clubs.
“My dad, even though he’s still a fully-fledged ‘Northie’, turns up to watch me play every week wearing all of his North gear and sits on the West side to barrack for me.”
“If it came down to a grand final in the seniors, I might have to go quarter by quarter.”
Like many of Wheatley’s peers that began playing women’s football in 2012, she said it’s the overall skills that have improved over the years.
“The skill level has just picked up so much,” she said.
“It’s actually amazing to have been there from the start where no one really had an idea, apart from some of the younger girls who had got to play as juniors. We came in as adults but at basically at a junior level where we had to learn everything from the get go.”
“And now, some of the girls coming in are just amazing.
“All of the clubs have got those up and coming players who could definitely play in the bigger women’s leagues.”