Highett Football Club (FC) player Gizele Tuinauvai has been recognised as the Monash University Leader of the Month for August 2021, recognised for her contribution to girls football.
Highett FC have had not fielded a girls team in any age group since 2017, everything changed in 2020 when Gizele Tuinauvai stepped onto the scene. Gizele and her mother Ele approached the club president, Jason McGrath to see if he would coach an under 13 girls team if they found the players, and find the players she did.
“Highett FC feel indebted to Gizele for bringing girls footy back to the club” MrGrath said.
At 13 years of age Gizele built an entire under 13’s side made entirely of girls who had never played before. Gizele’s enthusiasm and natural leadership got the team together, and after the cancellation of the 2020 season, the girls were finally able to take to the field for the first time in November 2020 with the SMJFL’s Footy4Fun program.
“Covid didn’t make it much easier because we would get all motivated to play footy and learn new skills and then we would get sent back into lockdown and some girls would lose interest, but I still managed to keep the girls all together and be motivated to play footy” Tuinauvai said.
When season 2021 kicked off Gizele mustered the girls, and were the first team back on the track, training in preparation for a new season. Unfortunately, having had another year pass by half the team no longer qualified to play in the under 14 age group, having aged out into the under 16 age group. Rather than let that get her down, Gizele encouraged her team and they committed to stick together, with all girls playing in a merged under 16 team rather than splitting into two merged sides across two divisions.
Through Gizele’s leadership and determination Highett FC and the SMJFL has seen the introduction of 20 girls to the sport of Aussie Rules.