Wright finds her love of football again

Gemma Wright. Picture Jamie Morey Photography

Tara Murray

Westmeadows star Gemma Wright almost considered not playing football at all this year.

Having stepped away from playing football at a higher level due to her mental health, Wright was set to step away from the game completely.

Wright decided to play and despite not having the season she would have liked was voted equal winner of the Essendon District Football League women’s premier division best and fairest.

Wright and Hillside’s Emily Paterno finished equal on 15 votes.

Wright said she didn’t think she had any chance of taking out the award.

“I didn’t have the season I wanted to have coming back from the AFLW and coming into a new club as well.

“I was excited to get the award.”

For Wright, who previously won Carlton’s VFLW best and fairest award, it was her first league honour, having previously finished in the top three twice.

On both occasions, her twin sister Sarah won the award.

“It was nice Sarah wasn’t there to beat me,” she joked.

The win caps off a whirlwind few years for Wright and her football. After starring with Keilor and then Carlton’s VFLW team, she was drafted by Geelong.

Wright wouldn’t play a game after stepping away to focus on her mental health.

She had signed to play with Westmeadows last season, but the season was then cancelled due to COVID-19.

Wright was unsure what her plans were for this year.

“I live with the president of the time, Grant [Smith], she said.

“I used to coach his daughter in under-12s and under-14 basketball. His wife is my best friend.

“I knew a lot of the girls from Westy and had been around the club.

“I had given up on the AFLW thing with my mental health and I was struggling whether to play football or not.

“Grant and a few of the players said you should give it another season, you will have so much fun.

“And that’s what it was.”

Wright says at times she thinks that maybe she should have given it another crack at AFLW, but said her mental health had to come first.

She said coming to Westmeadows had been exactly what she needed.

“I’m happy playing football with Westy,” she said.

“I do a lot more than just play, I do some of the social media stuff and I coach.

“I really love it, I don’t see myself playing anywhere else.”

As well as playing in the premier women’s side, Wright coached their second women’s team.

She said at times it was tough due to clashes and missing games, but she was proud of what the whole program achieved.

“At the start of the year, we struggled to get numbers of the field [for the second side],” she said.

“They would ring around each week to get players.

“To come up with the teams we had and to pull together two teams that finished in the four is amazing.”

Having rekindled her love of football, Wright is already keen to get back out there next year.