When Sarah Rowe got an email following the 2017 All-Ireland final, she thought it was too good to be true. It was from a recruiter for the AFLW. He had been impressed with her performance for Mayo in the loss to Dublin and wondered if she'd be interested in playing Aussie rules.
Rowe didn't know anything about the league at the time. It was a week later that Cora Staunton told her teammates she would be joining Great Western Sydney Giants for the AFLW's second season.
The thought of playing professional sport was one which immediately appealed to Rowe but had to be put on the backburner for a year as she finished her education at DCU.
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That done, the 23-year-old agreed to join Collingwood. She did so after visiting a number of clubs. Collingwood, who made her feel at home more than any other suitor, were aided by the recommendation of Marty Clarke. The former Down footballer had two spells in Melbourne.
Rowe travels Down Under on November 2nd but has already begun training for the adventure.
"I’ve been given a programme to prepare from Collingwood," Rowe told Balls at the launch of the 20x20 inititiave.
I’m training six days a week and sometimes twice a day. It’s very busy for me.
Obviously, they don’t know a whole pile about me. It’s just videos that they’ve watched and when I was over there, how I kicked the ball.
They asked me to do a 2km test and see where I’m at. I gave them my score.
I have tendonitis in my hamstring, which I’ve had for a good few years; I have to keep loading that. The programme is three gyms sessions per week, which is loading on my hamstring and rehab for my shoulder, compound movements like deadlifts.
Other days are three running sessions per week. I’m up-to-date.
I’m in their WhatsApp group and their Facebook group. I’m seeing what all the girls are doing. I need to stay in the loop as much as possible while not being in the country.
Since Rowe's signing was announced, Yvonne Bonner from Donegal and Ailish Considine from Clare have also been picked up by AFLW sides. Bonner will join Cora Staunton at Great Western Sydney Giants and Considine will pitch up in Adelaide.
"The physicality is definitely going to be a big challenge for me. But when I was over there I met a lot of the girls from the Collingwood team and a few of them were actually really small and petite. I was kind of like, 'Well if they can do it, I can do it.'"
While she's excited, Rowe's main priority is still Mayo. The AFLW season ends just in time for her to catch the tail end of Mayo's 2019 league campaign.
"It’s a special feeling in your heart," Rowe said about playing for Mayo. "Whereas Collingwood is going to be my new family but it’s not going to be what I grew up doing and it’s not going to be my first love. That’s why the GAA is so important.
"I’m going to come across numerous challenges along the way: psychological challenges, my body is going to be put through challenges; it’s about learning about myself along the way and being the best version of me. Having the structures in place for me to do that is going to be brilliant.
"I can learn a lot that I can hopefully bring forward into my GAA career - that would be my main aim.
"Over the next few years, there will be more teams added to the Women’s AFL. I don’t know if it’ll be as easy to up and go and then come back again.
"At the minute, you can play both with Mayo and with Collingwood - it works out great. If that wasn’t the case, I think my decision might be different."
Sarah Rowe is pictured at the launch of 20x20, a new campaign presented by the Federation of Irish Sport and originated and developed by the creative agency Along Came A Spider and supported by Healthy Ireland is setting out to create a measurable cultural shift in our perception of women’s sport so that it will be seen as something strong, valuable and worth celebrating.
The campaign, championed by Ireland’s National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships, is calling on the people of Ireland and all those involved in Irish sport and physical activity to get behind female sport in a concerted effort to increase media coverage, boost attendances and ultimately, grow involvement in female sport and physical activity by 20% by the end of 2020.