Mayo forward Sarah Rowe has signed a deal that will see her join Collingwood in the forthcoming AFLW season.
The 23-year-old follows long term Mayo team mate Cora Staunton (Greater Western Sydney Giants) and Laura Corrigan-Duryea of Cavan who played with Melbourne Demons for the AFLW’s first two seasons before being delisted recently.
Rowe has represented Republic of Ireland at soccer and has declared her intention to return to Mayo after her five months in Australia to help her county in their bid for the All-Ireland.
Rowe travelled to Australia in April, meeting with several clubs before choosing the Magpies.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” she told the Irish Echo. “I don’t know exactly what to expect. It’s a complete new challenge for me, a new sport, a lot to learn but really looking forward to that aspect of it as well and putting myself out of my comfort zone.
“Football is what I grew up doing so instinct tells me what to do next and I would be able to help people around me whereas now I’m going to need a lot of help off other girls on the team and going to the manager with a lot of questions and stuff. It’s going to be a different role for me completely. You want to try prove yourself in one way but you need to learn all the skills first. It’s just gonna take time.”
Sarah had never been to Australia before she also visited the clubs Carlton, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, Geelong and North Melbourne.
“Collingwood was the first club I saw. I was extremely impressed, I thought they were so professional with their presentation. They made me feel very much at home very quickly.”
Rowe and Mayo were defeated by Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland Ladies final. This campaign saw them exit to Galway at the quarter-final stage:
“Hopefully I learn stuff that I can bring back to Mayo. It’s always been my dream to win an All-Ireland so I would never turn my back on that but it’s great that I get to do both. Going professional is hopefully going to stand to me big time. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s very appealing for Irish girls at the minute.”
Sarah herself has spoken about the inequalities between men’s and women’s sport in Ireland. She was encouraged by what she saw in Australia in this aspect: “The girls get as much of an opportunity as the boys to be in an environment where they can excel so I really liked that side of it. In Ireland at the minute it’s improving an awful lot, things are looking up but it’s still not there yet.”
Sarah will arrive in Australia ahead of pre-season training with Collingwood on November 1.
Eighteen other Irish women have arrived in Melbourne to try their luck at the Australian game.