Dani Curcio has a habit of proving people wrong.
She was once told that she would never be able to run after a serious knee injury. Others doubted that she would be able to ever play Aussie rules again.
But she will prove them both wrong, as she runs onto the Alan Ray Oval on Saturday afternoon (27 April) for her 200th game for Ainslie Football Club, becoming the first female footballer to do so.
The road to 200 games has taken longer than she would have hoped, but Dani admits she would not have had it any other way.
She attended her first AFL game in her mother’s belly but it wasn’t for another 15 years that the football star was born.
On a bitterly cold morning in 2001, a young Dani pulled on a Tricolours jersey for the first time. She spent a lot of time on the bench during her first season because as she admits, “I wasn’t very good”.
The superstar-in-the-waiting didn’t spend much more time on the bench again after her first season, as she racked up numerous best-on-ground votes including the club’s most improved player the following season.
Accolade after accolade followed, including club best and fairest, representing the ACT at two National Championships and being named in the Team of Decade in 2007.
It was in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter in the last regular season game in 2007 that her career shattered – literally.
Going up for a contested mark, she shattered three-quarters of her knee cap, ending her season and possibly her career. After spending two hours in surgery having her knee reconstructed and held together by nine screws, she was told she may never run again.
“I spent a fair bit of time out of the game and was told I probably should never run again but I had a great physio who really helped me through and a year or two later, I was back out there,” she said with a smile.
“If I could look back then and think that I would be here today, I would be pretty happy.”
After all that she has achieved through her 19 seasons in the competition, there is still one more award that Dani wants to win before she hangs up the boots.
“I need a premiership so I will stick around till then,” she said. “Ainslie won a premiership 20 years ago, the year before I started playing.
“It has been 19 years without one. Fingers crossed this is the year.”
2019 AFL Canberra Women’s First Grade
Ainslie Tricolours vs Belconnen Magpies
Alan Ray Oval
First bounce 3:45 pm 27 April