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Our AFL Women's wrecking ball

Top 5 against Melbourne Watch highlights from Collingwood's round two AFLW match against Melbourne, presented by Collingwood Media and premier partner CGU Insurance.
Barden clashes with Carlton star Lauren Arnell during Collingwood's round one AFL Women's clash against Carlton. Photo: AFL Images.
If someone has the ball, I want the ball... It’s something I love about the midfield and something I love about the game.
Amelia Barden

There aren’t many 23-year-olds making an impact on and off the field like Collingwood AFL Women’s player Amelia Barden.

By day she’s a full-time nurse, spreading her time across two practices - an orthopaedic ward and an IVF clinic.

By night – three times a week – she trains at the Holden Centre, working hard to hone in her craft and become one the most hard-hitting, contested inside ball-winners in the competition.

And while many know her from her impressive five-year career with Victorian Football Club Diamond Creek, Barden’s tough footballing persona originated in the backyard.

“I grew up with three brothers who always knocked me around and who kept me tough,” Barden told Collingwood Media.

“I’d have to stick up for myself around them. It’s funny how tackling and blocking have now become my biggest strengths as a footballer.

“I love being pushed around on the footy field because it makes me want to bounce back stronger and harder.”

Affectionately known as ‘Millie’ by family and friends, Barden started playing football at her school Eltham College, before breaking her arm and having to take an extended break from the sport.

But in 2011, after deciding to give footy a proper go, she contacted the closest geographical club to her, went down to a training session; and five years later – stands proudly as a two-time best and fairest winner, a premiership player and one of the best women’s footballers to emerge out of the Diamond Creek Football Club.

As one of 15 ‘Creekers’ currently on AFLW lists, Barden says having Diamond Creek represented across the league shows how strong her local club is.

“Diamond Creek is one the biggest football clubs in Victoria. We have men, women, juniors and open age players donning the red and blue, and it just shows how big of a community we are.

“I had a couple of tough times throughout last year, and if it wasn’t for football and my Diamond Creek family, I would have really struggled.

“I can’t imagine my life without that community.”

At the inaugural AFLW draft in October last year, Barden joined her long-supported and much-loved Magpies via pick 59.

“I was at a friend’s house watching the draft, and after a while, I started to think I wasn’t going to get drafted. I had prepared myself either way. When Collingwood picked me, I was over the moon. I was speechless and I had tears in my eyes.”

“I’ve played so many sports in my life and I can honestly say that football is the only sport that’s ever made me cry.”

The damaging midfielder wouldn’t be the only Creeker wearing Black and White, as Diamond Creek skipper and now Collingwood captain Steph Chiocci (pick 11), Melbourne Star cricketer Jess Cameron (pick 75) and crafty forward Christina Bernadi (pick 132) all made the move from Coventry Oval to the Holden Centre over the summer.

“It was a little intimidating walking into the biggest sporting club in Australia, seeing netball players, AFL players and all the staff. To have those girls by my side as I walked in acted as little security blanket.”

“This club has an amazing culture. The Side By Side motto is something we stand by. We have all gelled so well – I played against these girls for five years – and now we’ve come together and get along so well, on and off the field.

In the first two weeks of the AFLW competition, the 167cm midfielder has asserted herself as one of the leaders in Collingwood’s midfield.

Having amassed a team-leading 14 touches and five tackles against Carlton, she had another 12-disposal, seven-tackle performance last week against Melbourne.

“If someone has the ball, I want the ball,” she said.

“I’ll do whatever I have to do to get that ball. It’s something I love about the midfield and something I love about the game.”

Often praised by commentators for her uncompromising attack on the footy, Barden also led Diamond Creek in defensive acts during the VFL last year, and is well-known for putting her body on the line, as well being as a notable goal kicker.

When coach Wayne Siekman drafted Millie Barden to the Pies in October, he said: “She’s very tough and is the perfect team player.”

From becoming one of Diamond Creek’s most decorated women’s footballers, to representing Melbourne in the exhibition match, to being drafted to Collingwood, Barden says winning the 2012 VFL premiership is her greatest footballing moment to date.

“You can’t go beat winning a premiership. You just can’t explain the feeling.

“It was even more special for me that my coach was my dad at the time. He was helping out during pre-season and then he ended up coaching Diamond Creek and we won the premiership.”

Barden and her Diamond Creek teammates celebrate a Grand Final victory over Darebin. Photo: VFL Website.

At 23, with two jobs and a blossoming AFLW career, Barden is well on her way to becoming one of the competition’s best, and busiest, players.

“My life does get exhausting at times. Sometimes I think I would love to have a day off and sleep in, but I’m in a great routine now, and I love what I do.”

“I’m so lucky to have a close family and good friends, who have supported me through this entire process.”

While Barden has had an impressive first two weeks on the field, her team finds themselves 0-2 with a must-win clash in Brisbane awaiting them on Saturday afternoon.

“I think getting away is what we need. We need to travel together and really focus on the next five matches.”

“In the past two weeks, I think we’ve lapsed concentration towards the end of the game. In a competition like this, there’s no time for that.

“If we stick together and stick to our structures, and spend valuable time together, we’ll be good to go and should be close to getting our first win.”


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