Tessa Drafted to Port Adelaide

Tessa Doumanis (Class of 2017) became obsessed with AFL after watching her brother play. She took it up herself when she was about 8. She played until the age of 13 when the boys and girls were separated. The boys kept on playing while the girls were told it was too rough and to find another sport.

Things have come a long way since then. Tessa, now 22, took up the game again at the age of 17 after being encouraged by her Homeroom teacher Jo Beechy. Jo, a development coach with the Eagles for two years (2019/2020), said, “I am really excited for Tessa! A great achievement and something for Santa Maria to celebrate – our first AFLW draftee!”

Tessa has just been drafted to Port Adelaide after playing for Claremont in the WAFL Women’s league.

We asked Tessa to tell us about her passion for AFL and how she balances everything.

Why did you choose AFL over other sports?

I always wanted to play every single sport I could. I hated doing nothing and always wanted to have a different ball in my hands. After getting back from a basketball trip to China, I got injured and missed out on all my basketball team trials. So, when I got better, I looked for another sport to play. The only one that was still holding trials was footy. It just happened to be the perfect timing, and the trials helped me rediscover my love and talent for the sport.

Who inspires you as a sportsperson?

Erin Phillips is someone I’ve always looked up to in the footy world. She’s kind of the Michael Jordan for AFLW. With multiple premierships and Brownlow’s, she has every right to put herself on a pedestal with a big ego, but she remains the most humble and down-to-earth person I’ve ever met. I’ve always measured greatness as the impact that you make on the careers of others, not just the impact you have on your own career. Erin is someone who will go out of her way to take someone under her wing and unlock a new level of their potential. I always dreamed I’d get to meet her one day and have a conversation with her just to get a gauge of her mindset. Luckily now, she is my teammate.

Which strengths do you believe make you a good sportsperson?

Mental toughness. I’ve never had to deal with the social media aspect of becoming an athlete before and having the spotlight on you. There are always going to be negatives that are shone on me, and that’s something that I just have to brush off. Luckily for me, I’ve always had a tough skin that allowed me to do so. In the same aspect, I have the ability to allow people such as coaches and mentors to give me feedback. Whether it’s brutal or if they are dropping me for a game, I can bounce back from that. I can’t allow myself to get down because being a professional athlete is just as much mental as it is physical.

How are you feeling about moving to South Australia?

I love it. My first time being in SA was when I came to the club for the first time. The transition was so easy because Port Adelaide wanted to help in any way they could, whether that be finding a truck, finding a house for me, or just lending a hand to lift some boxes. I cannot speak highly enough of their support for me and the move. I was never really scared to move. I had a dream to play AFLW, and I told myself I would just adapt to wherever I had to go to make that dream a reality.

How do you find a sport/work/life balance?

To be honest, it’s hard. It takes up a lot of my time, and when I’m not training, playing or thinking about footy, I’m recovering from it. People don’t understand, and I didn’t really understand either, the physical strain you put your body through to get to this high-performance level. It’s not just a pre-season, then you’re ready for the season. There’s a pre-pre-season and mental workshops to ensure that halfway through, you don’t hit a wall and crash. So even though the season is six months, you never really stop, which means things like going out clubbing, having a few drinks, or Macca’s every few weeks isn’t an option. No one will stop you, but if you do, you will find yourself delisted pretty quick. And I’m okay with that. I sacrifice a lot of things people my age are doing to be able to put myself in the best optimal health position I could possibly be in. I’ve been very fortunate with Port Adelaide as one of the things they told me to get me to agree to come to their club was they would get me whatever job I wanted with one of the clubs’ sponsors. So, I choose how many days/hours I want to work a week, and the company will agree to it. Although that’s incredibly rare, it makes the sport work balance so much easier to manage when work understands your commitment to the sport.

Do you play any other sports?

At the moment, no. Footy takes up so much of my free time. Training six days a week doesn’t really allow you to play any other sports. Footy wasn’t always my best sport. I grew up playing basketball and found great success in it. I loved every sport. To be completely honest, I’ve played all of them – soccer, cricket, volleyball, basketball, and tennis. But ultimately, I ended up progressing so high in AFL in such a short amount of time that I knew it was the sport I could end up going professional in.

Do any other members of your family play AFL?

My dad and brother never got the opportunity to play AFL, but both had successful paths in football. My dad was able to play VFL for Richmond, whilst my brother was a development player for the Fremantle Dockers.

Tessa, we wish you all the best with your new family at Port Adelaide.

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