MELBOURNE draftee Krstel Petrevski hopes to inspire young Indigenous girls to play in the NAB AFLW competition.
Petrevski, the cousin of Carlton's Sam Petrevski-Seton and Melbourne's Toby Bedford, hails from Halls Creek, a small town of around 1000 people about eight hours inland from Broome in Western Australia.
At just 11 years old, and with the backing of her parents, Petrevski made the decision to move to Sydney to further her education.
"At the time in Sydney, there was a program for Halls Creek to attend William Clarke College. I got lucky, I got the call-up to get a scholarship and go down and I took it, jumped on a plane and went to Sydney," Petrevski told SEN.
"Big influence [from] my family and my parents as well, they drove it, but at a young age I realised there weren't many opportunities in Halls Creek and I knew I have a bright future, things I wanted to achieve and my ambitions. I knew I couldn’t get that done in Halls Creek.
"Our biggest shop would be an IGA. We don't have Coles, we don't have Maccas, it's one straight road with all our shops on it.
"We do have a pretty big footy oval, [but] it's full of bindies and a bit of dirt there. When you play on that footy oval, you know you don't want to hit the ground."
The 18-year-old strong-bodied forward/midfielder spent three years in Sydney before deciding to finish her schooling in Melbourne.
This year, she played for Calder Cannons (although her season was stymied somewhat by a knee complaint) and three games for Essendon's VFLW side.
Melbourne selected her with pick No.78, its last pick in the 2019 NAB AFLW Draft.
“It has always been my biggest dream. I have worked extremely hard and for my dream to come true today honestly means the world. I am extremely honoured and beyond grateful. I can’t wait to get stuck into it.”— Melbourne AFLW (@MelbourneAFLW) October 22, 2019
- Krstel Petrevski on being drafted to @aflwomens. ❤️ #AFLWDraft pic.twitter.com/oOKpfhzYEG
Petrevski's parents, however, had flown back to Halls Creek the day before, having come to Melbourne for her graduation.
She'd forgotten to tell them the draft was on.
"I always wanted to play the highest level of footy. Coming from Halls Creek, I was hoping there was going to be a women's league by the time it was my draft year, and very lucky there was," Petrevski said.
"When I first moved to Melbourne, I didn't realise how big girls' footy was. Even the local leagues, I came and played my first game and it was crazy how big it was. I couldn't believe it because - now we have a women's league in the Kimberleys – but before then, I had no idea some girls played footy (Petrevski played with the boys).
"You do get very homesick. Halls Creek never changed when I went back for holidays, either, so I knew I wasn't – like I was missing waking up every morning and saying good morning to [my] parents – but I knew me leaving creates a better opportunity and pathways for other kids, and for myself."
In her years living in Melbourne, Petrevski has been involved in the AFL's Kickstart program for Indigenous players.
"[They're] amazing. You go on these camps, you meet so many people and make so many connections. It's also good to learn that we're all Aboriginal, but every Aboriginal mob is different. It's good to learn everyone else's culture and connect through footy, which everyone loves," Petrevski said.
"Those programs, they develop you as a player, but also as a person. When you hear about Aboriginal people, the shame comes into it, [you're] scared to talk, but in those programs you blossom.
"I think my journey will have a big impact on girls and our younger generations coming through, because now they can see I've made it. I hope to open that pathway and pave it for them too."