She is more powerful than the Victor locomotive. She flies in faster than Superman. In women’s footy, she’s Supermum.
Cathy Griffen is an amazing mum who gets her kicks from her daughters – literally. This get-up-and-go 57-year-old was sensational in the Great Southern Football League’s first-ever women’s competition playing alongside them, and now don’t even mention that word ‘retirement’.
While some mothers and daughters went shopping or had brunch on a Sunday morning, Cathy joined Catie, 30, and Jaimi, 28, out on the footy field playing for Encounter Bay.
Incredibly, Cathy finished equal second in the association best and fairest medal count, just one vote behind Victor Harbor’s Natalie Gibbs.
There is every chance Cathy became the oldest in Australia to play women’s football in an organised competition, and many believe she should have joined her daughters in making the GSFL association side, which beat a weakened, but wonderful sportsman-like Great Southern side 17.5 (107) to 0.0 (0) last month. “Age discrimination,” a few claimed with laughter.
“I was so happy for mum to see her play her first footy match, but I’ve got to be honest, I thought, gee, at her age – hope she doesn’t embarrass herself,” Catie said.
“The next minute she was selling candy, faking a pass this way with the ball and moving past her opponent the other. The dodging and weaving never stopped. They’d knock her down and dear mum would be bouncing back up again and climbing the packs.”
Cathy, who works as a an aquatics instructor with schools visiting the region through the Department of Education, said as a kid she always loved kicking a footy in the backyard.
“When Catie said Encounter Bay was having a trial game, and she said, come on mum, have a go, so out I went,” Cathy said.
“I thought, why not, I am only 50 years too late doing this. I just love it. Opponents hear about my age and they say, wow, that’s amazing. I tell them I am going to play as long as I am fit and healthy.
“I have coped okay with the bumps. It takes me a few days to recover, but it’s just part of playing an contact sport. Everyone plays the game hard, but fair and definitely in the right spirit.
“I cannot really describe how special it has been playing footy alongside my daughters. That’s the greatest thing for me with this game. We’ve played basketball and volleyball together which is fantastic, but footy is an even greater highlight of my life because it’s full-on.
“Football offers such a wonderful opportunity for girls now. They are going to grow up with a footy in their hand and develop amazing skills.
“All of the girls in our team love the game and if they get all the training and help that the guys get now then they will become more skilful and stronger.
“I received a lot of nice comments from opposition players this season. They’d say, wow, you’re smashing it; they are such nice people and there is genuine care for the well-being of every player out there. Everyone is so welcoming and encouraging, which is what makes sport special.”
The GSFL basically ran a training-come-and-try program last year, and this season was the first official competition with seven clubs, the others being Strathalbyn, which beat McLaren Vale in the final, Victor Harbor, Willunga, Mount Compass and Yankalilla. Encounter Bay won just one game, but the girls said what mattered most was that everyone had a great time, they learned a lot from their coach John Butler, and the opposition players were terrific.
This was the first try at football for Catie and Jaimi, and it was not entirely surprising they showed talent – their dad, John, played league football at South Adelaide where he earned a huge reputation as an assistant league coach, and is a Level 3 AFL accredited coach.
However, according to Caiti, when the girls were young there was never any real thought of kicking the footy in the backyard because no one imagined there would be a strong AFL women’s football competition like there is today.
Both girls are schoolteachers, and Jaimi, who works in Perth, went overseas with her partner for seven weeks and only called back into Adelaide to see her family. She delayed her road-trip back over the Nullarbor to play football.
“It was just by chance that I came back here when the girls were having their first training, and I was able to stay a while,” Jaimi said.
“Now I’m considering changing my whole life plans so I can come back and play for Encounter Bay again, even though the women’s league is very big in Perth.
“It was really strange watching mum out on the ground. It was awesome really.
“Talk about getting stuck into it… I saw mum get smashed a few times, and as a daughter every time I just got into this full protective mode. I was worried for her because she is only little. She’d be running and the next minute she’d go flying.
“Every time she got the ball and started to run she’d have this big smile on her face. So many times she would get hit hard and I’d yell out, are you still in one piece mum? Are you okay?
“And then I’d think, that’s good, she hasn’t snapped in half yet. Mum would bounce back up and fly again amongst the pack.” Of course she would; she’s Supermum.