If you mention the name Abbey Holmes, the instant recall is of the lady behind the mike, the personable Seven footy commentator who transitioned from an AFLW premiership player into a media personality - but she is much, much more.
Thirty-one year-old Abbey, now happily ensconced in her Richmond, in inner suburban Melbourne, hideaway with her partner, former Hawthorn player Keegan Brooksby, is a person with such a strong work ethic it would send the originators of the time and motion study back to the drawing board.
As well as her role calling the women's and men's footy, Abbey has founded an internal tourist program called Backyard Bandits to generate outback travel and a sports clothing company, Blindside.
To top it off, after serious injury put an end to her AFLW career, she has undergone four bouts of surgery on her right knee and is now training with Hawthorn VFL women's team. She intends to be ready for selection for matches this month.
"I'm the sort of person that doesn't stop. People do not know how I fit it all in, but somehow I make it work," she says.
The principle of hard work was instilled in her by her parents when she was a young girl, living in the South Australian coastal town of Victor Harbour. Her father was president of the local football club and her mother was heavily involved in netball. "Every Saturday, it was netball and footy with mum and dad and my sister, Georgia," Abbey recalls.
After moving to Adelaide in 2001, Abbey continued with netball and by the age of 16, had represented at state and national level.
"When I was going through high school, I tried my hand at footy but there was never an elite league or an AFLW, and that is why I continued netball for so many years," Abbey says.
"When I was 21, I moved to the Northern Territory. I joined a netball club up there, but every netballer also played footy in the off-season."
Abbey joined the NT Waratahs, a club that was exceptionally strong when she became a team member in 2012. She played for the club for four seasons, during which the club won each premiership and Abbey was the highest scorer each year.
It was there Abbey created Australian football history, becoming the first woman player to score more than 100 goals in a season (105). "It hadn't been done, so we set out to achieve it," she said. "I say 'we' because it wasn't just me, I had incredible support from my team mates as well."
"It was phenomenal. The team had the ability to kick long and I was lucky enough to get on the end of a few. Being the first woman to do anything is an honour, but particularly in Aussie Rules footy and with a footy-mad family. I was really proud of that time in my life."
Another major highlight for Abbey was being drafted in the inaugural AFLW round for the Adelaide club in 2016. "It was a club a that I had grown up loving and supported my entire life, so being part of the premiership winning side the following year was something really special." Abbey played two seasons with the Adelaide Crows before injuries took their toll.
"My body was a bit of a mess. I was having knee problems. I had been juggling netball and footy for well over a decade and my body was telling me I had to slow down and have a bit of a break. It was the netball days that came back to bite me, more so than footy."
The injuries enabled Abbey to focus on other aspects of her career - in particular media commentary.
It was the buzz around her 100-goal achievement in the Northern Territory that gave Abbey a taste of the media world. "After that, I was thrown into the the media space, doing interviews, then I was flying down to Melbourne to appear on The Footy Show. I found that I really liked it."
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Abbey started with Channel Seven as a boundary rider at VFL games while she was still working as a real estate agent in Darwin. "My parents taught me to work hard and make the most of every opportunity but it was a very trying time in my life.
"I was jumping on a plane on what seemed to be every second day and was spending most of my earnings on flights and accommodation. I was proud of my work ethic in trying to forge a space in an area I really wanted to explore. It was a big risk, but it was an area I was really passionate about."
As her commentary role with Seven grew - along with the AFLW - Abbey found she would have to make the move to Melbourne. She needed to be in the city that was the home of footy - and she could not have got much closer to its heart than Richmond, with its proximity to the MCG.
"I absolutely love Richmond, and after arriving in Melbourne, I really don't think I could live anywhere else. There's the proximity to the MCG and Marvel Stadium not far away - that was a big attraction. Then there's the café and restaurant scene here. Everything is on your doorstop. I love my coffee. I'm a bit of a coffee snob, so Richmond is really the place to be on that level."
Abbey is not one to rest on her laurels - and the world of footy is but one of her passions. Her exposure to the Top End engendered a love of the Outback, along with a sense of disappointment that many Australians had visited overseas without experiencing the majesty of the interior.
This led to her establishing a tourism campaign, Backyard Bandits, to promote domestic travel, an industry that was a primary victim of the COVID lockdowns. "I started it about three years ago, before bushfires, before COVID-19," Abbey says.
"I guess it was born out of frustration that Australians were spending thousands of dollars to travel internationally, but had never seen the real Australia or experienced our history and our culture. I am passionate about getting Australians to go out to do that.
"With recent events, it became even more relevant, so I have been very busy travelling around Australia and promoting some of these wonderful places. I have worked closely with tourism bodies in South Australia the NT and WA to develop destinations and experiences."
Alongside Backyard Bandits, Abbey started another business, Blindside, in 2020, retailing her own line in stylish comfort and leisure wear. Unwittingly, the online business became a beneficiary of lockdowns. "The timing actually was perfect," Abbey says. "Because of the lockdowns, people wanted their trackies and their warm clothes. It was quite fortuitous that we were launching right at the time. It really is a lot of fun and it is something that I do with my partner as well."
A football memory that remains with Abbey was a glorious moment in the evolution of women's football that was tainted by tragedy. It occurred while Abbey was calling the 2019 AFLW grand final, won by Adelaide over Carlton.
"For me, it was bitter-sweet. At a vital moment in the match, Adelaide co-captain Erin Phillips went down with an ACL (anterior crucial ligament) injury.
"It was a devastating moment for Erin, her friends and family, but as she was chaired off 53,000 people at the Adelaide Oval rose to give her a standing ovation. That for me was a pivotal moment in women's sport. It was a moment that will always stay with me". Phillips was voted best on ground in the match, even though she was injured in the third quarter.
Abbey believes the AFLW has now reached critical mass. "It is getting bigger and stronger every year," she says. "You've now got players coming through from Auskick to the elite level, much the same as the boys always have.
"These are girls who have picked up a footy at an early age and have never been told they can't play footy when they get to a certain age because its's a boy's sport. They can also turn on the TV now and see these phenomenal female athletes playing footy and can aspire to do it too."
There is still room to improve the game for AFLW players and spectators. Abbey sees the need for more sponsorships, as it is far below the level of the men's game. She also believes women players need to go full-time to further enhance skill sets.
"These girls are mothers, workers and then part-time footballers. In order to grow the game and the competition, we need our athletes to go full-time as soon as possible. We also need to get more people going to the games. This means playing the games at bigger grounds and packing them out as well."
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