For someone who started as a reluctant ruck, Steph Wales has become an integral presence in the middle for the Bombers entering her second AFLW season.
Standing at 188cm, Wales’ athleticism was on display in the Bombers’ round one win over Hawthorn, gathering 11 disposals and four clearances to go with 19 hit-outs in a solid opening outing.
The 20-year-old told SEN Breakfast that although the ruck wasn’t her favoured position throughout her junior career, she’s learned to embrace her strengths and use them to advantage in the centre.
“I didn’t like it (rucking) too much in my early years of footy and always let Lucy (twin sister Lucy Wales) play in the ruck when we were on the same team,” Wales said.
“I don’t mind doing the ruck stuff but (getting) around the ground is definitely my favourite, I like getting involved with the mids.
“I’ve definitely learned to love it a lot more.”
The Bombers have an enticing weekend ahead, with their first home game of the season to be played at Windy Hill against the Saints.
With the famous ground set to host its first AFL-competition match in over 32 years, the significance of the event hasn’t been lost on Wales and the team.
“The club has been really good at slowly educating us on the history of Windy Hill and why it’s so important we get back there,” Wales said.
“Hearing from some of the girls who grew up supporting Essendon, it means so much to them, so it’s pretty insane that we’re going to head back there and continue creating history.”
In the midst of an exciting period for the club, Wales and her family have been forced to endure significant challenges over the past two months.
Steph and Lucy’s younger brother Cameron Wales suffered a serious spinal injury on holiday overseas back in July, resulting in incomplete quadriplegia.
With a difficult period of recovery ahead, the Wales family is staying strong.
“(Cameron) spent six weeks over in Italy recovering and has now made it back to Australia, so it’s been really good to have him home,” Wales said.
“He’s had to have another surgery to stabilise everything, but he’s in really good spirits and he’s helping us all get through it with his positivity.
“We’re going to need a lot of help, but the support so far has been absolutely amazing and humbling. It’s great to know so many people love and support him.”
You can donate and show support for Cameron and the wider Wales family via the GoFundMe page here.