Meet the AFLW champion juggling sport and study 

Bachelor of Education student Taylor Smith is juggling her studies with a professional AFLW career. Photo supplied by Brisbane Lions AFLW.

Griffith education student Taylor Smith was part of the historic Brisbane Lions AFLW Premiership teambut the elite athlete cut short her victory celebrations to hit the books. 

I’m just as passionate about my studies and becoming a teacher as playing football,” she said. 

“I’m enjoying having the best of both worlds at the moment.” 

Taylor started her sporting career as a heptathlete, training at the Griffith University Gold Coast campus track, and has only been playing AFLW for the past four years. 

The 21-year-old forward ruck made her club debut with the Lions this year and admits she still has a lot to learn. 

“I know a lot of my teammates have been playing footy since they were kids and dreaming about a premiership win their whole lives, so it’s pretty surreal,” she said. 

I’m still learning, but I’m so proud to be helping set up the code for future generations of women. 

“We’re the first Brisbane Lions AFLW team to win a premiership, so it’s a big piece of history.” 

Taylor was inspired to embark on a Bachelor of Education after working with Indigenous communities as part of the AFLW outreach program. 

“Going into schools and working with the kids helped me realise my passion for teaching,” she said. 

“I love seeing the impact you can make in kids’ lives and inspire them to aim for something bigger.” 

Taylor combines her sports career with full-time study and a part-time job in retail, so it’s no surprise she nominates time management and organisational skills as her secret weapons.  

Dr Sue Whatman

School of Education senior lecturer Dr Sue Whatman said an elite sports career was good preparation for life as a teacher. 

“Particularly in a relatively new sport like AFLW, the players need to be so self-directed, disciplined and good at juggling – all skills that are so valuable as a teacher,” she said. 

Dr Whatman said Taylor was likely to cause waves during her first professional experience placement. 

“I think a lot of the kids will know who she is… she’ll be a bit of a celebrity out on prac, and it will be a real thrill for them to have her in the classroom.” 

Taylor said Griffith Sports College had helped her juggle the demands of sport and study. 

“Without the support of the Griffith Sports College, I wouldn’t have been able to do this,” she said. 

“It’s really important for athletes to have that support network.”       

 Griffith has the highest number of student athletes in Australia, and the Sports College helps more than 600 students balance the demands of elite sport and university life each year. 

There are currently more than 65 professional athletes juggling study and sport across AFL, AFLW, netball, cricket and rugby. 

Olympic gold medallist and manager of Griffith Sports College, Naomi McCarthy, is among the speakers at the 2017 Future Leaders Retreat.
Griffith Sports College Manager Naomi McCarthy OAM

Griffith Sports College Manager Naomi McCarthy OAM said female professional athletes often had a tougher journey than their male counterparts, with shorter contracts and less money. 

“It’s not uncommon for professionals in the AFLW to be holding down a day job or study, so it’s vital that they have a support network,” McCarthy said. 

“We are proud to help female athletes juggle study with playing at the highest levels and help champion equality in sport. 

“The Sports College works with clubs to support the athletes and understand what they need. 

That can be as simple as helping design a course load, to working out timetabling clashes or organising tutoring.”