AFL FEATURE: How the Women's Leadership Scholarship is helping Eloise McLean thrive.

The ANU AFL Club has always prided itself on being forward thinking and with the recent launch of their 2020 ANUAFC Women's Leadership Scholarship, in association with KJR, continue to be so. The scholarship, worth $5,000 per annum for up to 3 years of study at ANU, provides the holder with leadership and career development opportunities and is helping to mould the future leaders of tomorrow. 

One such potential leader is the 2019 recipient, the articulate and inspiring Eloise McLean. McLean, who was born in Adelaide and is in her third year studying Law and Commerce, paints a vivid picture of just how the scholarship, in her case sponsored by GEOCON, is helping to shape her ambitions on, and off, the field.

“I applied in my second season with ANU and, even if I hadn’t got it, I’d apply again and again as it was an incredible experience,” McLean recalls. “The combine was amazing. It was fitness testing at a level I’d never done before. The day I found out I had won the scholarship was just an incredible day. It supported me when I’ve been injured and has allowed me to reach my full potential. 

“It has been really empowering. More than the money, the scholarship group has been supportive and has helped to home in on the women in leadership and professional careers side of it. I’ve met a lot of inspiring women and men and have had great support from my sponsor.”

The process for the applicant takes several steps, but each one is exciting and exhilarating in equal measure as McLean reveals.

“You apply and share with them your leadership and athletics background, and then you go to Willows and get put through a series of testing over a couple hours,” she said. “Even if you’re nervous about your skill level, you go through the training and trialling together as a team and it’s a great experience with the other girls. Not everyone gets the scholarship, but you meet your teammates for the next few years. It makes you reflect on what you want to be as a leader, and you keep trying to deliver on that through the year. I’m excited to meet this year’s recipient. 

“It’s more about your passion for sport and your passion for supporting other young women. If you can show that, its 80% of the job.  Showing that you really care and that you’re committed. Everyone is incredibly fit, but it’s the mindset that you bring.”

Having been born in South Australia, to a family split between the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide, a childhood spent growing up in South West Victoria enhanced McLean’s passion for the sport, so much so that when she was accepted at ANU, joining the AFL club was one of the first things on her ‘to do’ list.

“When I came to ANU it was the first thing I looked for!” Mclean recalled. “It’s the perfect combination of sports, so much chasing, physicality, intensity and you need to be strong mentally in a great environment.

“It’s encouraging to see the new girls each season make their first steps. We have a lot of athletic women who have played other sports and they are coming along and being retrained in this space. The introduction of the professional Womens AFL has made a difference.

“We see a lot of girls coming down who tell us they always wanted to play but didn’t know they could until they saw teams like the GWS Giants. A teammate of mine from 2018 is now playing for the Melbourne Demons. It’s a driving force.

“I would strongly suggest to anyone that you should try your hand at AFL. It’s a great place to be. If you come from interstate and you are looking for like-minded people and a place to set up some ties, then it’s an incredible place to be. Everyone is so supportive and are successful and interesting people. The game has been an important part of my three years in Canberra and the sport itself is thrilling, it will build your confidence!”

The sport of AFL can be highly demanding on its participants, both mentally and physically but even if you have never played the game before at any level there’s a position for you as McLean explains. 

“There are 18 different positions on the field, so what makes a good AFL player and what you can transfer from a different sport is unique to everyone,” she said. “We have jet girls coming from soccer and running that dominate the wing, touch and rugby girls cleaning up in the back lines, then tall, amazing netballers sending through goals from everywhere.”

“Because it’s such a large team, we take everyone from everywhere, but its more about the mindset that they come in with. The women that seem to excel are so passionate about the club, enjoy what’s around them and really like to push themselves.  Maybe push the other side around a bit too!”

What you will get, as well as a healthy lifestyle, is a group of friends and the chance to be introduced to some amazing individuals. People who manage to juggle the demands of a career, study for a degree and play the game at the same time. Inspiring people. People just like Eloise, and those she has had the fortune to meet.

“Meeting women in the club that hold amazing positions in the public service or in firms and are still coming to the field three, four times a week was very inspiring,” McLean said. “I met a lot of role models and women in this space that made me feel like I can play for the rest of my life an

d develop my career as well.

“It’s been an anchor for me as to what my future could look like and it’s important for us young girls to have those role models. The scholarship this year is going to be an incredible opportunity and I’m really looking forward to meeting the young woman who gets it.”

Due to the AFL's suspension of all games and trainings until at least 31 May, and the current COVID-19 policies of the ANU and ANU Sport, it has been have decided to extend the application process until Friday 8 May. 

For more information on how to apply visit,

Story: Russ Gibbs