Air force accommodates Maria Moloney's fledgling AFLW career

HEAR OUR MIGHTY ROAR: Garvoc export Maria Moloney (left) played three games for Brisbane as part of a winter series in Queensland. Those performances helped her get drafted to the club. Picture: Brisbane Lions
HEAR OUR MIGHTY ROAR: Garvoc export Maria Moloney (left) played three games for Brisbane as part of a winter series in Queensland. Those performances helped her get drafted to the club. Picture: Brisbane Lions

A move north for work helped Maria Moloney become an AFLW footballer.

The Garvoc-raised Moloney - one of 11 siblings who grew up on the family property some 40 kilometres from Warrnambool - moved to Queensland in 2016 to start a career with the Royal Australian Air Force.

Moloney, having played under 12s at Panmure alongside her twin brother, decided to pull on the boots again.

She joined University of Queensland and cemented herself as an inside midfielder who is "not afraid to go into a contest" over the next three seasons.

Moloney, now 24, captured the attention of Brisbane recruiting scouts and was invited to be part of its 10-week winter series this year. She impressed the Lions and was drafted to the club with pick 75 last week.

Moloney said the winter series, which included three games against Gold Coast, was a catalyst in her being drafted.

"I think a few of the girls put in good words for me and the coaching staff would have seen me play a bit and invited me along and we stayed in contact and here we are today," she said.

BULLDOG PUP: Maria Moloney wears Panmure's colours during an under 16 school game. Picture: Rob Gunstone

BULLDOG PUP: Maria Moloney wears Panmure's colours during an under 16 school game. Picture: Rob Gunstone

Moloney said her passion for football started at a young age.

"I did Auskick with my twin brother (Damian) at Terang and then we both played under 12s at Panmure," she said.

"I switched to under 13 netball with Terang Mortlake and I continued netball all through secondary school but I started boundary umpiring when I was 16 with the Warrnambool umpires.

"I'd always enjoyed footy and wanted to keep involved a little bit.

"I'd play a game of netball in the morning and the parents would drive me all over the countryside to throw in the ball from the boundary in the afternoon."

LION PRIDE: Maria Moloney (third from left) with Brisbane's fellow 2019 AFLW recruits. Picture: Brisbane Lions

LION PRIDE: Maria Moloney (third from left) with Brisbane's fellow 2019 AFLW recruits. Picture: Brisbane Lions

Moloney will juggle her AFLW commitments with her job in the air force.

She enlisted under a gap-year program where those interested in the military "get your foot in the door and see if you like it" before landing a full-time job as a load master.

"I work on the C17 Globemaster which is a big cargo aircraft. I work with a team of people to load cargo, whether the cargo is helicopters or people," Moloney said.

"We'll load to cargo onto the aircraft and make sure the cargo is appropriately restrained and is not going to move anywhere at all and make sure the aircraft is going to balance and then I'll fly with it."

Moloney said her job took her "around the world".

"If the family haven't heard from me in a week or they try and call my phone and it goes straight to voicemail, they just assume I'm away somewhere in the world," she said.

The air force will help Moloney throughout the AFLW season as she strives to earn a debut.

"It (the winter series) was a big step up from what I was used to but it was also really exciting because everyone was 100 per cent keen, focused and driven and that radiated onto you just being in that elite environment," she said.

"I assume it's only going to be another step up once pre-season starts."

Moloney said the support she'd received since she was drafted was overwhelming and she hoped to repay them with strong performances in the Lions' maroon, blue and gold when the season starts in February.

"I would like to say thanks to everyone back home in the south-west. I know mum and dad have been fielding phone calls left, right and centre," she said.

"I am getting nice messages of support and I know other people down there have mentioned it to my siblings.

"I just need to get a game now."

This story Flying with force on and off the footy field first appeared on The Standard.