Just five matches into Mim Strom’s AFLW career, I had the opportunity to speak to her alongside senior coach Trent Cooper and the teenager was the opposite of how she presented on the field. Strom was timid, and largely deferred to Cooper when answering questions. 18 months on, however, the story is quite different.
“I definitely used to be more of a quiet person. I think the Club's brought me out of my shell a lot… and you seemed like a lovely person in our last interview,” Strom laughs.
The environment of the Club, and the leaders she is surrounded by, is what Strom credits for her ability to be more vocal and confident—not just in footy, but in life. Those leaders set the standard both as people and as footy players, bringing the rest of the team along with them.
When asked about specific leaders amongst the players, it was a mention of Kiara Bowers’ impact that saw Strom’s demeanor immediately shift to that of pure admiration.
“She's just, it's so hard to describe it because she's just such an amazing person. You know, you might think she won the best and fairest and she's obviously an amazing player, but you don't really know her,” Strom says. “Honestly, from someone who does. She's just the best person and she works so very hard.
“She's working for her teammates. She's working for her wife. She's working for her son. She's just a very passionate person and is an amazing leader. I'm so, so lucky to work with her in the midfield.”
Quickly after this, however, Strom laughs and qualifies, “I hope she doesn't find out how nice I actually talk about her,” because their dynamic is like that of siblings, nothing but banter.
Strom also describes both Hayley Miller and Kara Antonio as “incredible”, indicating that she herself hopes to become a leader of the Club one day - a concept she had not even considered in her first year.
One thing that Strom hasn’t needed to develop, however, is her competitive nature, whether it’s on the footy field, or card games to pass time when traveling for an away fixture.
“I'm competitive. I like to get out the cards every now and again. Competing for our Monopoly Deal championship, you can tell everyone I beat them because I definitely did,” Strom says laughing before switching back to footy.
“Growing up I had two older brothers and an older sister, so we were competing for anything we could,” she says. And it’s this trait that has her itching for opportunities against the best opposition rucks across the AFLW. She flags Carlton’s Breann Moody and North Melbourne’s Emma King as the biggest challenges of last season, citing their ability to cover the ground and their body work. Strom is keen for another chance to test herself against the best.
That competitive streak is even more evident when we get onto the topic of Fremantle’s 2021 round three win over the Crows. She admits it is a game she recently rewatched (“not just for myself, I was doing something for the Club!”) and the experience not only of the game, but the whole week leading up to it was one of the toughest parts of their season, but equally rewarding.
“We just found out a few days before that we'd have to pack up all our stuff and go to Adelaide and not know if we were coming back or when we were coming back,” Strom says of the potential hub they were supposedly heading into. Not only that, the prospect of facing the Crows at Norwood Oval is one of the trickiest in the AFLW.
“They're such an incredible side. We knew we could win, but obviously you’ve got to put it into action.”
For the first half, the two sides butted heads and at the main break Fremantle was up by 11 points, but nothing is ever certain against the two-time premiers. There was a moment, however, when Strom knew that her side was on.
“I remember watching, Juddy (Kara Antonio) did a tackle and got someone holding the ball and Ange (Stannett) just slapped her hands together. She was just so excited. We were just celebrating the little wins, because it had been a very bad week. And we just got to take all that frustration out on the field and just celebrate those little wins. Chip away.”
And chip away they did, eventually overwhelming the Crows to win by 30 points.
“We spent that week supporting each other, and I think it really came out in that game,” says Strom.
It’s this persistent theme that continues to crop up throughout the chat: team first. Everyone buys in. And whether it’s helping to motivate one another during an off-season running program, celebrating impressive feats on the field, or banding together when put in a tough spot, this is what Fremantle is all about.
Mim Strom’s a different person to the last time we spoke, but it makes sense. The Fremantle family has unleashed a confidence in her that wasn’t quite exposed before, but now that it is, it’s only making her a better footballer and leader.
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.