Playing for Keeps’ Olympia Valance relishes chance to play inspiring female role

Olympia Valance (front centre) with the cast of <em>Playing For Keeps</em>.
Olympia Valance (front centre) with the cast of Playing For Keeps.

OLYMPIA Valance has never dated a football player and detests the acronym WAGs (wives and girlfriends of sportspeople) – yet leapt at the opportunity to return to Melbourne to shoot new Channel 10 Australian drama, Playing For Keeps.

The show, which follows the private lives of the wives and girlfriends of players for fictional AFL team the Southern Jets Football Club. premieres tonight at 8.30pm.

“I had just gone over to LA for a substantial amount of time and wasn’t quite ready to come back but then I got the first episode and I just knew I needed to be play this character and be a part of this show,” Valance said.

“The writing was amazing and I also loved the notion of telling a story based in a male world from the perspective of five very powerful females.”

Valance, known for her modelling work and time on Neighbours, said her role as Tahlia Woods, a socialite engaged to team captain Connor Marrello (Home and Away’s Jackson Gallagher), had been a challenge.

“She presents in the beginning as the stereotype of what everyone thinks these women are and then suddenly you start to unravel who she is and why she is the way she is,” Valance said.

“You realise she’s just a normal human who is flawed, vulnerable and has a big heart. I think at the end of this, you really do fall in love with this character and I love playing her.

“Imagine going to work everyday and getting to put on those outfits and play a bitch and then play someone who is in a fractured relationship, who is hurting and loyal to her friends. There are so many elements to Tahlia. I find her incredibly inspiring.”

It also does not hurt that her love interest, Gallagher, is easy on the eye.

“You always get a bit nervous when you get paired up with someone who you have to work with intimately,” she said.

“Jackson and I have worked together before and we have great chemistry. I think when you watch the show you see that. And it’s also nice because he’s so incredibly good-looking and sexy.”

Having grown up in Melbourne, Valance could not escape the world of football but was not a huge fan until the cast and crew bonded during filming Playing For Keeps by attending a few games together.

“I really had much more respect for the game after watching how hard these men work out there on the field,” she said.

“People are obsessed with football and the WAG world and I think they are going to be excited to see what goes on behind closed doors.”