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AFLW: Wallace finds purpose in footy

Kirralee Thomas  December 18, 2017 1:18 PM

Ruth Wallace and Ebony Marinoff during an AFLW  internal trial match

Ruth Wallace and Ebony Marinoff during an AFLW internal trial match

So that’s my purpose, to inspire the next generation of girls and also Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Ruth Wallace has found a purpose in life, and she is using football to share that with the next generation of girls and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The 24-year-old has represented the Australian Junior Matildas and Adelaide United in soccer, but remarkably she doesn’t consider those achievements her greatest feat in life so far. 

In 2014, she was involved in the Indigenous Marathon Project and ran the New York Marathon.

That was something Wallace considers essential to her now becoming a Crows player after she was selected with pick No. 38 in the 2017 AFL Women’s Draft.

Despite growing up with footy and playing it for a few years as a kid, she didn’t think she was going to be able to keep playing.

“There was a girl in my brothers’ team who I noticed and looked up to, but she wasn’t allowed to play anymore,” Wallace said.

“I thought, well if I can’t play when I’m her age there’s not really any point.”

Therefore, Wallace turned her attention to soccer, given it was the sport of choice at her primary school.

While she enjoyed playing soccer, being part of a team was the most important part for Wallace.

“I just love sport, and I love playing with a team – it’s such a social environment and I love playing with girls who work really hard and want to play at that higher level and challenge each other,” Wallace said.

In the end though, Wallace felt her passion for soccer fizzled.

“I lost a bit of purpose to why I was playing, I felt like I wasn’t being challenged enough,” she said.

It was the marathon that helped her re-find her purpose.

The project was founded by Olympian Robert DeCastella to help promote healthy lifestyles within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and celebrate their achievements.

In the project’s first year in 2010 only four people completed the marathon. Now, more than 75 have – including Wallace in 2014.

It wasn’t about the running for Wallace. 

“Since I finished high school, I’ve done a lot of work within the Aboriginal community,” Wallace said.

“Actions create a healthy lifestyle ripple effect to your friends, to your family and community, so to do something so positive and so healthy was important, and I found a purpose.

“Running a marathon is so physically hard but it’s the self-belief that you have and the mental strength you have to keep going.

“I was like wow, I can put my mind to something and go for it.”

In 2017, her purpose was redefined when she started playing football again.

It was an incredibly successful season for Wallace too, winning a premiership with Norwood in the inaugural SANFL Women’s competition.

She won another premiership with Adelaide University in Women’s Division 1 of the Adelaide Football League, finishing as the competition’s leading goal scorer with 33 goals.

“I’ve had so much fun playing footy this year and I feel like I can inspire my Aboriginal community,” Wallace said.

“So that’s my purpose, to inspire the next generation of girls and also Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.”

Wallace can see her new Crows teammates all have one thing in common – purpose.

“We are all there for a purpose and that’s what pushes me and you can see why the other girls are there, everyone is there for a greater purpose,” she said.

“I have loved it so far, it’s such a positive environment and so supportive.

“Obviously it’s a lot of hard work but the rest of the squad are in the same position, so even though it feels hard, you’re going through it with the rest of the team.”