SPORT has dominated Ebony Antonio’s life.
When she was named a priority pick for the Fremantle Dockers in the inaugural Women’s AFL competition it was vindication for a lifetime of love for the game.
Locally Antonio (24) is known as a basketball star with the Willetton Tigers, recently playing a key part in the side’s Championship win.
The defender only got serious about basketball when she was no longer able to play AusKick at seven years old.
The Bull Creek/Leeming Junior Football Club could no longer accommodate girls in the sport so she made other plans.
“I’ve loved footy, I played a year at Bull Creek/Leeming, and then there were no more pathways and my involvement in basketball then took off,” Antonio said.
It was not all over – from time to time, she got among the ruck, subbing in for her twin brother’s team, coached by her dad – but never played a full game.
“Dad would always do the right thing and ask the opposition if I could play, but come half time the coach would always say the girl has to go because I was showing up the boys,” she said.
Antonio’s rise up the basketball ranks led her to Bendigo, where she trained with the Spirit before coming back to Perth and playing for the Lynx.
But the love was gone.
“I was in Bendigo for two years and I came back without the passion for basketball,” she said.
Taking up the black and white at the Swan Districts Football Club, Antonio threw herself into women’s footy– and her passion for sport was reignited.
Her timing could not have been better.
“As soon as the AFL announced they were having a women’s team I jumped at it, it was something I’d wanted to do since I was little,” she said.
“I think I’ve done my time in basketball and I want to give football a hot crack.”
Playing all exhibition matches, some televised, Antonio’s debut as a signed player at on September 3 at Whitten Oval was a highlight.
“We felt like we had to prove ourselves at Whitten Oval,” she said.
“There were 6000 people there but it felt like 100,000 people, I’d never played in front of that many people, and now it’s starting to take off.
“That TV game peaked at one million viewers and we heard such positive feedback, I feel like we have gained a lot of respect because of the standard we played at during that match.”
In the mean time, the Freo pick is gearing up to welcome her new teammates, announced on October 12, then throwing herself into training.
“It’s surreal that I’ve been named a Fremantle player, I don’t think until I find out who the rest of my team mates are and I see that it’s serious that I’ll believe it’s happening,” she said.
“We’re looking forward to starting training and getting the season off the ground.”
Antonio said 2017 would be big for women’s sport.
“Who knows where footy will be in four years time, but who knows in five, six or seven years girls will be running around as professionals in sport not needing to work outside of it as well,” she said.
“Twenty years ago people didn’t want to see women’s sport but the new generation does (so) tune in, watch next year grow it will be a massive year.”