“You really need to play footy.”
That was Crows joint-vice captain Sally Riley’s advice to 18-year-old Calista Boyd when she first saw her pick up a football.
Cairns-born Boyd was a touch football player in her native Queensland, having grown up with the sport alongside her five siblings, Jemma, Roydon, twin sister Charlene, Caleb, and Iothamo.
“The whole family played from a very young age. Probably before I could walk I had a rugby ball or a touch football,” Boyd said.
“Everyday you’d wake up and be like, ‘do you want to pass the football?’
“It was a priority, touch football was life.”
Boyd achieved a lot in the sport, playing representative and state touch football, and wanted to go as far as she could through the sport.
However, a few years ago, Boyd’s family decided to move to Darwin for better opportunities, so they packed the trailer and made the three-day trip to their new home.
Unfortunately for Boyd, touch football wasn’t as big in Darwin, so she couldn’t keep playing at the same level.
But then in came Riley.
Boyd was in grade 11 at Casuarina Secondary College in 2016, participating in the SEDA sports program, and Riley was her teacher.
“I was stuck with her for the whole year,” Boyd said with a laugh.
Initially, it wasn’t Boyd’s football skills that struck Riley.
“One of the first things I noticed was her smile, she’s just always smiling and is the happiest student I’ve ever had,” Riley said.
When they went outside in a practical scenario, Riley instantly noticed her talent.
“She’s just super quick, has agility that I haven’t seen before and the way she picked up the footy and could kick left or right foot,” Riley said.
“That’s what stood out, just her natural ability and coordination.”
Riley assumed that Boyd played in the local league given her ability, but once she found out she’d never played, she “pestered her” until she did.
The tricky part wasn’t convincing Boyd however, it was convincing her mum, Jillian, to let her play.
“My mum wouldn’t let me play a contact sport, she was scared given how small I am,” Boyd said.
“Sally said ‘I’ll try have a word with her’ and I just said ‘oh good luck.’”
At the first parent-teacher interview between Jillian and Riley, school wasn’t the topic of discussion.
“We didn’t talk about school, I just said ‘this girl needs to play footy, she’s got some talent.’”
Eventually, with some convincing from Boyd’s step-dad, Jillian gave in, and Boyd went to play for the Wanderers with some family and friends.
“If it weren’t for Sally and my step-dad, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Boyd said.
From there, Boyd represented the Northern Territory and the Allies at the 2017 Under-18 National Championships, and was a member of the AFL Northern Territory Academy.
Boyd was then drafted with pick No.8 in the 2017 AFLW Rookie Draft to the Adelaide Crows, reunited with her teacher Riley.
Riley is still available to lend a helping hand.
“She’s obviously pretty young, and completely new to this environment, so the weights, the running, the professionalism is something completely new to her,” Riley said.
“I’m keen to be a bit of a buddy for her and help her out when need be.
“It’s an extremely proud moment to see how far she’s grown.”
Boyd still can’t believe how quickly her football career has come about.
“It escalated very quickly, I was surprised but I am very happy with where I am today,” Boyd said.
“Coming from a sports family and background, it meant so much to me to be drafted, especially seeing my mum so proud of me, everyone loves a happy mum, and my siblings are very supportive.”
“I’m enjoying it a lot, I’d like to learn a lot from the other girls who are more experienced in AFL and have a better understanding of the game.”