The Darebin Falcons would like to acknowledge and celebrate Aasta O’Connor, as she retires from AFLW this week.
Career achievements – from Darebin to the AFLW
O’Connor first came to Darebin in 2010 after a sensationally successful footy career in Queensland, and almost immediately the talented footballer had a big impact on the club on and off the field. Aasta played her first season in an undefeated Falcons senior side, stacked full of talent.
Coach Peta Searle selected Aasta in the 2010 Grand Final team, where she was rewarded with a best on ground performance and the 2010 Lisa Hardeman Medal, as well as a sending off in the third quarter.
“Coming to Darebin, for me, I really wanted to be coached by Peta Searle. I knew there were a lot of good players and I wondered if I’d get a game. Or would it be better to maybe try my hand somewhere else. But it was the best decision I think I’ve made and I look at it retrospectively now, and I spent all of my 20s at the Falcs and just my formative adult years”.”
Interview with Alison Smirnoff, Siren: A Women in Sport Collective for Darebin’s 30th Year History Project
O’Connor continued to play excellent football during the next nine years, winning four premierships and state representative honours for Victoria, as well as individual achievements such as the Runner Up Best and Fairest at the Club in 2012 and 2013. She was named in Darebin’s Silver Jubilee team- the best players in the club’s 25 year history.
It was a partnership that offered so much for both O’Connor and for Darebin Falcons. She brought expertise, leadership and passion for developing programs for women and girls in the Darebin area.
O’Connor contributed with not only with strong administration skills, but with consistency and lots of hard work. She was involved in many of the tasks involved in the footy program but also wider contributions for the club with tasks like organising catering for club fundraisers like the ‘$1000 Draw and Games night’, cleaning and decorating the club room, liaising with sponsors. Notably, Aasta served as Club Treasurer for nine years, organising the finances for the Club, which included soccer, cricket, pool, as well as the senior and junior AFL football.
A tremendously talented player, she was selected to play in the first exhibition matches with the Western Bulldogs in 2013, and in the first ever televised AFLW exhibition match in 2015. She was selected with pick No.12 by the Western Bulldogs in the inaugural NAB AFLW Draft in 2016, playing 12 games over two seasons with Western Bulldogs. Her time as a Bulldog culminated in the premiership win in 2018. She then joined Geelong for the club’s first AFLW season, finishing 5th in the best and fairest in the 2020 season.
A respected and inspirational player
Aasta was selected as a Victorian representative at the first female AFL AIS squad in 2011, where she became a role model for other players.
“O’Connor is the complete team player and hence performs one percenters (blocks, shepherds, tackles) frequently and handles the ball cleanly whether its on the ground or above her head during a contest.
Aasta is also an inspiration to many female footballers and should come as no surprise that some of the younger girls in the High Performance Academy rate her as the footballer they would most like to play like.”
Throughout her VFLW and AFLW career she has forged friendship and respect amongst the playing group. This week these players have paid tribute to her and the impact she has had on them. Watch the tributes here
“She was always sort of one I looked up to as a young kid in Queensland.”
“She is really invested in AFL Women’s and the AFL space obviously giving back working through the pathways.”
Leading and developing others
O’Connor has been described as a genuine leader at every club, at community and elite level. Aasta is renown for her work setting up female footy development programs, particularly as the AFL NAB female talent manager playing a role in establishing the AFLW competition. She was one of six participants in the second intake in 2019 of the AFL Women’s Coaching Academy.
Aasta has continued to share her expertise with Darebin, coaching girls through our Falcons Academy, developing instructional videos as part of our Falcon’s Footy Fundamentals series and hosting seminars sharing her expertise on coaching women.
Joining the ranks of women’s football pioneers
In her retirement announcement, Aasta paid tribute to the pioneers of women’s football. We consider Aasta to be one of these pioneers, and can see a future where retiring players will recognise and acknowledge Aasta for her inspirational contribution to football.
“I’m so grateful to those women who went before me. It’s because of women like Debbie Lee, Sal Rees, Jan Cooper, Marlo Brack, Lisa Hardeman and Kerryn Stephens, girls now have the opportunity to play AFLW. They are true heroes. Special thank you to Peta Searle, she taught me to always raise the bar, I owe her so much.
“I want to thank my mum and dad for not giving into the social norms of the time, girls didn’t really play footy back then but they backed me in.
“To Kate and Leo, thank you for everything. You’re always there through the ups and downs. I simply couldn’t have done it without you.”
Although there have been some statements in the media that O’Connor will hang up the boots, we here at Darebin are hoping that she might just be keeping her boots handy, and continue to share her skills and expertise with our community.
We raise a toast to Aasta’s stellar achievements at the highest level, and wish her all the best in her retirement from AFLW.