Kearney, player for all seasons, lines up for AFL women's exhibition match

Emma Kearney (on ground), playing for the Western Bulldogs, competes for the ball against Melbourne in the inaugural AFL women’s exhibition match at the MCG last year.

Emma Kearney (on ground), playing for the Western Bulldogs, competes for the ball against Melbourne in the inaugural AFL women’s exhibition match at the MCG last year.

EMMA Kearney is counting down the days until she dons the Western Bulldogs jumper for the annual AFL women’s exhibition match on Sunday.

But it’s cricket which remains her first sporting love. The chance to play at Docklands comes a fortnight after cricket officials renewed her VicSpirit contract.

That the girl from Cavendish can juggle national-level careers in football and cricket is testament to her dedication and desire to excel at both sports.

“It’s pretty difficult but I can do it,” Kearney said from Melbourne this week. “It’s not too bad at the moment. I haven’t obviously started pre-season for cricket but in July I’ll start doing that.

“I’ll be training three days a week for that, plus two nights for footy. Obviously that’ll be pretty full-on and then I’ll play footy on Sundays.

“Six out of seven days I’ll be doing something. It’s pretty hard but you’ve got to try and balance your life as much as you can,” she said.

“I’m still allowed to do both. They’re not intersecting too much. I think I’d get pretty bored if I had to give up one.”

Kearney, 24, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Her voice rises when she reflects on her cricket journey, which started when she was a teenager, and her improvement over five seasons of playing football.

She has represented Victoria in both sports. Essendon-Maribyrnong Park is her cricket club while Melbourne University is her football home.

“I always wanted to play for the Spirit but never thought I would be capable of doing it,” she said.

“I’ve worked pretty hard to get where I am. That makes me pretty happy and proud of myself.

“Football was just a bit of fun. I never played in the country so I never thought I could get to that level.”

But ambition prevents Kearney from being content with her achievements to date.

She is keen to shine in the exhibition match against Melbourne on the weekend, while a Victorian Women’s Football League premiership remains elusive.

“We’re going all right; we’re third on the ladder at the moment. We’ve been struck down with a couple of injuries to our stronger players,” she said. Her cricket aims are to cement herself in the Spirit’s one-day and Twenty20 sides and build on an encouraging debut season.

“There are so many girls around you who play at national level — Meg Lanning and Jess Cameron. You try to soak in as much information as you can,” she said.

Sunday’s exhibition match is a curtain-raiser to the AFL match featuring the same clubs and starts at 10.10am.

Cricket Australia will finalise the Women’s National Cricket League and Women’s Twenty20 fixtures in the coming weeks.

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