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Sabrina Frederick On Navigating Life and AFL As A Queer Woman of Colour

Sabrina Frederick is a force in the AFLW: known for her trademark long braids that whip and whirl as she powers across the green, she’s a fierce competitor and a ruthless fighter. And that’s because she had to be: as a women in sport – let alone a queer one – her path to success wasn’t an easy one, but it’s one she carved with such ease.

Born in England to an Australian mother, Frederick’s family moved to a country town called Pinjarra, about an hour from Perth, when she was just seven-years-old. There she was introduced to AFL, a game that she would grow to love, but one which wasn’t as openly welcoming to girls.

“Sport has always been part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I was lucky that both my parents were sporty so it was always been a big focus of my life. However, once I moved over to Australia and started playing AFL I realised it wasn’t as common for women to just play whatever sport they wanted,” she explains to Women’s Health. “It was a crazy experience from playing junior footy with the boys, to being told I can’t anymore because I am female. Moving on to playing with women at the age of 12 to then being in the right place at the right time when AFL womens started up and now about to head into my 6th year as a footballer it’s been pretty nuts.”

Legally Sabrina had to quit playing with the boys before she hit fourteen — a rule born to protect girls from changing physical capacities during puberty that historically lead to scores of aspiring girl footy player exiting the code. It was then she joined women’s team, the Thunderbirds: a team of mostly women in their twenties and thirties who wore pink uniforms and dubbed themselves “the glamour girls”. They were a team of women who went hell for leather and weren’t judged for being strong.

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“I think today we are seeing more sports become more inclusive with more investing in the woman’s game across all sports. There are now clear pathways for women in most, if not all sports from the little girl through to the elite athlete,” she adds. “Being a woman of colour who identifies as queer it’s never been easy. A lot of people don’t like change or difference because it can be scary at times but I have managed to navigate through life being true to myself and hopefully that can help others who also face adversity.”

Now, at the peak of her career, Sabrina is an inspiration for young women looking to join the sport – or any sport – and is using platforms like PUMA’s The Fearless Podcast Series (a limited edition of weekly episodes in partnership with Sam Squiers and On Her Game podcast) to do exactly that. “I would say give it a go,” she says when asked what advice she has for women wanting a career in sport. “You won’t know if you like something until you try. There are so many sports out there you are bound to find one you like.”

As for what’s next? Pushing herself even further both in her personal and professional life. “For me at the moment I am currently in my off season but also preparing for a marathon in a few months so my training is a little different to when I am in season with the team. At the moment it looks a little like this: running 3 days a week, weights 3 times a week and recovery walks & bike sessions.”

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