The Eastern Devils have thought outside the box to gain an advantage in Swisse Wellness VFL Women’s in 2017. It’s the Canadian Invasion, as Callum O’Connor reports.
Quebec-born Valérie Moreau is leading the way for the four Canadians who have voyaged to Australia to play for the Devils in 2017. 25-year old Moreau and AFL Canada teammates Lia Vansevenant, Jaclyn Halliday and Marlena Ginocchio have followed the path paved by Simcoe native Kendra Heil, who has become the profile player for AFL Canada since she ventured down under in 2013 to join the Devils and win a place on Collingwood’s inaugural list as a free agent.
“She’s like a model for us back home because she’s the one who made it here and is our representative here,” says Moreau, who initially lived with Heil when she was finding her feet in Australia.
Moreau’s decision to commit herself to footy to the extent of relocating lock, stock and barrel (she missed Halloween after touching down in Australia on November 1, which was a bigger deal than her Devils’ teammates could understand) is all the more impressive given that she was a sporting jack-of-all-trades in her homeland. She played baseball, kin-ball, karate, basketball and soccer before a basketball referee by the name of Morgan Whyte recommended her to try Australian Rules (“He’s now my best friend!” laughs Moreau). It proved to be the sport that suited her best.
“When I got here, my main issue was that I didn’t know anyone,” admits Moreau. “So I was worried if I was going to make any friends but the first time I got here, I really felt it. It’s like family, it’s a really nice club to play for,” says Moreau. The first time I came to training, they really welcomed me aboard. They really helped me out, they got me a job and a bike.”
Moreau made her VFL debut for the Devils in Round 1 against St Kilda and has only missed one senior game this season. Whilst she admits she still needs to “get smarter” about her game, there is no denying the pugnacious half-back’s fearless attack on the contests; her new club has anointed her with the nickname ‘Rocket’.
“My biggest strength is being quick, firstly,” she says. “Secondly, if I go for the ball and it’s on the ground, one on one, it’s mine. Like, get out of my way or I’ll make you get out of my way.”
She will play for Team Canada in the upcoming International Cup in August, the exposure of which will bring her closer than ever to her dream of playing AFL Women’s.
“I just want to get smarter on the field. I know I can run, I know I can have an impact, I just need to be mentally ready to have a purpose every time I’m running. I knew I was good in Canada but I want to see if I can make it here in AFL. I think I can do it, definitely. I think I’ve got what it takes,” she says in an accent that is a mix of Canadian and her native French.
Who knows – if she can make her AFL dream come true, Valérie Moreau might just be here long enough to get a touch of Australian twang in there as well.