This weekend will mark a significant achievement for Eastlake Demons player Karina Demant as she enters the ‘League of Legends’. When she lines up for Eastlake against Queanbeyan Tigers in the AFL Canberra Women’s First Grade competition on Saturday, 10 July, she will notch 100 games for the club.
Born and bred with footy, Karina first ran onto the field to play Auskick in 1998, then played junior footy before joining the women’s league for Ainslie in 2003. She made the jump to Eastlake in 2013, saying her time at Ainslie had been fantastic, but that it was the end of an era.
“My dad got me into it as we’d always watch the footy together, and I approached him to say I’d really like to play, but I wasn’t sure I could because I didn’t know if there were any girls’ teams,” says Karina.
“He was the one who pushed me to give it a go and said he’d take to me to play Auskick.”
Growing up, Karina generally played with boys’ teams, but says it wasn’t an issue.
Having played Australian rules football for almost a quarter of a century, Karina has grown up alongside the women’s game and says one tangible knock-on effect of its success at a local level is that the women’s and men’s competitions are now much more aligned.
“The legitimisation of women’s sport at a club level has been really noticeable in terms of the healthy respect the women’s and men’s leagues pay one another,” she says.
“At least at Eastlake, we are all pretty tight and you get the feeling that no matter what grade you play, we are all one big family.”
Karina also says the success of the women’s game has to be attributed not only to those playing professionally now, but to all of the people behind the scenes who have been plugging away to further it for at least the past 25 years.
Along the way, Karina has suffered a couple of significant injuries, including during the 2018 grand final when she had to be stretchered off the field. While she says this was a tough experience, there was a silver lining in terms of the rehab process that made her stronger.
She says she’ll only give up playing footy when her body gives up on her.
A public servant by day, Karina admits the cold Canberra evenings might not always be the most inviting when it comes to training, but she does it anyway for the enjoyment of the game and the good of the team.
“Nobody wants to be the person who lets down the team. If I don’t go to training, my performance is potentially going to slip so I guess that’s my competitive side coming out,” she says.
“Plus, I just love playing footy.”
Karina spends around four or five hours on the field each week, and has a separate fitness program which adds a couple more hours to her regular commitment to the sport.
“For me, the love of footy is really a love of the game and the competition, more so than others who play mainly for the social aspect,” she says.
“Obviously the girls I play with are like my family, too, so that is the other huge part of it.”
Some of Karina’s career highlights include winning three best-and-fairest medals, Rising Star of the Year, and the league’s leading goalkicker award. In 2011, she was selected for the All-Australian squad, and in 2013, was selected in the All-Australian team.
Next year, 2022, will mark a significant anniversary for the Eastlake Demons AFL women’s program as it enters its 25th year. During the past quarter of a century, the women’s team has won nine premierships.
The club says it is committed to investing in the continued growth of its women’s football program, and will bring a renewed focus to this area in future years. Currently, 40 per cent of senior participants and 61 per cent of junior players are female.
For more information, head to Eastlake Demons Football Club.
You can head along to watch Karina Demant in action this weekend: Eastlake Demons vs Queanbeyan Tigers at Aulich Park on Saturday, 10 July, at 3:45 pm.