When Roxy Roux answers the phone for our scheduled interview, she’s trying to sneak outside at work while apologising profusely for the inconvenience. There was no inconvenience, though, I try to tell her. I am just excited to finally be chatting with the emerging Fremantle Dockers star after trying to lock something down for the past two years.
We chuckle about her and Aine Tighe’s jobs with the Club’s ‘Freo Footprints’ program, and how High Performance Manager Kate Starre would be happy with their roles.
“I love chasing after the kids, extra conditioning. We should wear our GPS while we’re working. It keeps me sharp mentally, in case a kid wants to get up and kick the ball at me for some reason.”
Roxy speaks quickly, excitedly, barely giving herself a chance to take a breath. I expect she does just fine keeping up with the kids she’s working with.
It’s pretty appropriate that she is engaged with kids around the Club, as Roxy has a keen desire to become the kind of role model that her now-teammates were for her.
“My first day, I was quite literally just sweating so much, because these are people that I've looked up to. I've been lucky enough to have them as role models. I've had posters of Juddy (Kara Antonio), Epps (Ebony Antonio) and Gemma (Houghton) on my wall… I would go home and see them, and I would go to training and see them.”
Roxy was first and foremost a fan. A fan of the women who are now her equals. And she cannot quite express the importance of those role models to her as a girl who grew up wanting to be a footballer.
“Coming from a country town, girls playing footy isn't that common, and then all of a sudden I've got something that I can look forward to. I can do it. And if I put my head to it, I can make it. I'm going to make it into that team,” Roxy explains of the Women’s Exhibition series that preceded the AFLW.
“And all of a sudden, that just exploded into this competition. I'd moved down to Perth at that point, and I can go to these games.
Even if it was awkward when they found out about the posters on her bedroom wall.
But now, Roxy is on a mission to not only be the best footballer she can be, but to be that same beacon for other kids.
“I just hope I can do the same with some other young kids out there, boys or girls, whoever. I just want to be that for people,” she says earnestly.
When I ask if she’s ever been approached in public by fans, like she used to do with her heroes, Roxy tells a story about a mother and daughter duo in East Fremantle colours who hung around her part-time job for five hours just to have a chat with the star.
“I'm not going to lie, that's the exact same thing that I would have done,” Roxy adds.
We turn the chat to the footy field, and her time spent in the ruck in tandem with Mim Strom. The duo worked together in their under 18 year before both being drafted to Fremantle, so they know each others’ game inside out. Mim is the traditional tall tap ruck, while Roxy likes to add a bit of uncertainty to that role for her side.
“I love playing the ruck. Obviously, it's quite interesting seeing me, all 170 centimetres of me, walking to the midfield against someone that's six foot. But you know, it's actually one of the positions that I've always loved playing.”
It’s evident that she also gets a thrill out of the confusion she creates for opposition rucks in the process.
“I think it's a bit of a shock to the system. Like, ‘I don't know what's going to happen here. What's going on?’ And I've been given quite a few of those 'Are you lost?' looks,” Roxy laughs. It’s not just opposition players who have thrown a quizzical look her way.
“Aaron Sandilands was one of those… I was running along like a little excited puppy because you know, Aaron Sandilands, I get to work with literally one of the greatest rucks to have ever played, and he looked at me and kind of gave me a little bit of a concerned look, and I was like, ‘no, I promise I'm actually meant to be here.’”
Her point of difference in the ruck has never been more evident than late in Fremantle’s dramatic come-from-behind win against Carlton in round seven last season. After the side had kicked two quick goals to cut their deficit from 14 points down to just two, Roxy stepped up against eventual All Australian Breann Moody in the centre circle and spiked the ball forward to continue that momentum. Tiah Toth was able to get on the end of it and hurriedly kick it onto the chest of a leading Gemma Houghton. Goal. Fremantle in front for the first time all game.
Flipping back and forth about whether she thought about the spike or not, Roxy comes to the realisation that she must have consciously made that decision prior to the ball being flung in the air.
“Actually, yeah. I actually jumped off both feet like a volleyballer, which is something that if I'm trying to get the ball to a certain place, I won't do. But that I've jumped like that—like a volleyball spike—means that somewhere consciously I knew that I needed to get it forward.”
This season, Roxy says that she wants to make sure she’s playing in the moment. Crash those packs. Don’t get lost in the crowd. Ignore the ticking clock. Don't worry about slow starts. Play with a sense of freedom and confidence.
“I'm there for my team at the end of the day, and I'm giving them what they need. I'm giving us the best opportunity to get a score on the board and hopefully get the win.”
But over everything, she doesn’t “ever, ever, ever, ever in the history of Freo” want to feel what they felt in the changerooms after their qualifying final loss to Melbourne in April. When describing what it felt like on the field that day, Roxy uses an analogy I’ve never heard—maybe because I’m from suburban Melbourne or maybe because it’s one she came up with herself, I don’t know—but it’s one that depicts a sense of panic, almost helplessness.
“It was literally like trying to hold a school of fish with string. And we tried so hard, the coaching staff tried hard. At the end of the day it was on us players. It was on us players and we didn't live up to our trademark. We didn't live up to our Freo way that day. Individuals did. But as a team we didn't and that just hurt.”
To lighten the mood a little I make a joke about it not helping the game was out at Casey Fields, and Roxy’s tone immediately shifts; “I was absolutely bewildered!” is how she describes her first trip to the ground. And that’s the Roxy Roux I’ve come to know over the course of the conversation. Funny, kind, enthusiastic and above all, really loves footy.
And I am sure there are plenty of kids with their own Roxy Roux posters plastered over their bedroom walls.
Gemma Bastiani is the co-founder of Siren Sport, a collective of Australian women’s sports advocates, content creators and fans providing coverage to women's sport across the country. To read more of Gemma Bastiani's work, head here.