Contributed by: Tash Gunawardana
Since the inaugural AFLW season, Emma Zielke has been a household name at the Brisbane Lions with her leadership and star talent.
Zielke captained the Lions in the first two seasons after she was signed as a priority access player in August 2016 before the inaugural AFLW season in 2017. “It was one of the best memories so far, I was extremely grateful and excited for the opportunity.”
Zielke handed over the captaincy to Leah Kaslar for AFLW 3.0.
“Leah is a great leader, being the Vice Captain the past two seasons I have leant on her in both seasons,” Zielke said. “I know she will be great, she gives it her all every time she steps out on the track and is fearless. I look forward to running out behind her this season!”
Image Source: Jason O'Brien/Getty Images AsiaPac
Zielke has always been a leader in her 12 seasons of playing football. She captained Queensland three times at the AFL Women’s National Championships. “It is always such a great honour to captain any team you play for but it was quite special named captain of the QLD team, as I was only a few years into my football career at the time so it was special.”
Zielke believes there is still a place for the National Championships with the AFLW in place. “Yes, I don't see why not, I think it would be a good platform for players that aren't AFLW listed to get a chance to prove themselves if they are over 18 and not aligned with an academy," Zielke said. "It would also be a good platform for current AFLW players who are looking to coach to take on these roles.”
Since being an AFLW player, Zielke has played in a few inaugural AFLW competitions including the first AFLW State of Origin. “Obviously it was exciting to be able to play in the first State of Origin game but unfortunately for me it was where I broke three ribs and punctured a lung so a good experience quickly turned sour!”
Zielke is a believer in women's footy players being able to represent their country in International Rules like their male counterparts as she feels it will be great for women's football in moving forward and being promoted worldwide. Also Zielke would put her hand up to play if there ever was a International Rules AFLW series.
"Yeah definitely, I think the girls who get picked in the All Australian team should get to go overseas and play a series just like the men," Zielke said. "It would be a huge incentive."
Another first for Zielke was she became the first Lions AFLW captain to lead her team into the inaugural AFLW Grand Final and she also was the first captain to lead her team into two consecutive Grand Finals. “Yeah the feeling of playing in two grand finals itself has been a great experience and something you can always learn from, but obviously you play footy to win a premiership," she said. "So to come so close is pretty devastating but it helps drive you through pre season and when you come up against your next opponent.”
Image Source: Michael Wilson/AFL Media/Getty Images AsiaPac
Zielke played alongside star players Kaitlyn Ashmore, Tahlia Randall and Brittany Gibson at the Lions, but in AFLW 3.0 she will now play against her former teammates who play for the North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos. “We have drafted really well this season so we have had a few that have stepped up to replace anyone who has left from last season," Zielke said. "We have 5 debuting for us this weekend, Paige Parker will be important for us and is someone to look out for.”
The coach who has had the biggest impact on Zielke’s football career is current Lions head coach Craig Starcevich. “Craig Starcevich has been huge in my development, having coached with him and being coached by him he has helped my game in all aspects.”
Since Zielke became a Lions player she has enjoyed every moment. “My teammates and the fun we have. I really enjoy going to footy everyday because you get to see them and play the best game in the world!”
Image Source: Brisbane Lions
With one day left till AFLW 3.0 begins, Zielke believes that the Lions have what it takes to be a real threat again this season. “I believe we will be a strong and competitive team in 2019, the team has trained so hard all preseason in tough conditions and have stepped it up another notch so we won’t go down without a fight!”
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