Aine Tighe moved to Perth, having never set foot in Australia, solely to play AFLW but didn't manage a game until two years later.

Afflicted by two ACL ruptures in as many years, the Irishwoman decided to sit out the Covid-19 pandemic in Perth instead of going home, while she waited for her chance to do what she came for.

Having finally made her debut for Fremantle in 2022 after an injury riddled initiation to Australian life, she's played all but one match so far, but she didn't wait for that to find a silver lining.

Tighe began working with the community department at the footy Club where she's been running clinics for schoolchildren and educating the community both on and off the field about the sport she hadn't even had the chance to play yet.

A Physical Education teacher by trade with a Masters in sports performance, Tighe works across various education programs, something she says was simultaneously helping her to consolidate her new sport in her own head.

Tighe was offered the opportunity to come and play with Fremantle through global talent agency and sporting education program, Cross Coders that allows top female athletes the opportunity to become a professional in Australian sport.

Having never played AFL before signing with Fremantle and moving across the world, she sees the novelty of the early days.

"The first couple of school visits, we went out on we were trying to explain the rules to the kids, and we didn't know half of them ourselves," she laughed.

"It definitely has helped me pick things up along the way and it's been a huge journey, I've taken a huge amount from it personally as well on and off the field."

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'The support i've had has been phenomenal' | Aine Tighe debut

Fremantle debutant Aine Tighe speaks about what it means to be making her debut in round one.

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Tighe said it became an outlet from the stress of rehab and wondering when things would finally turn a corner.

When asked about the mental battle of living across the globe and not having played the game she'd travelled for, all amidst a pandemic, she credits finding self-belief from the trust the Club put in her.

"It was absolutely a roller coaster, there was several different things at different points but when I did my ACL the first year, it was pretty straightforward with rehab but the second year was trickier because after the meniscus tear, it just wasn't settling, and it wasn't getting back to the level I wanted," Tighe said.

This determination to get back to the physical and mental place she knew, played a part in the decision to stay in Perth when the world began locking down amidst her second round of rehab.

"The reason you come across in the first place was to kind of prove yourself," Tighe said.

"So, even with the injuries and the setbacks, that doesn't change, you still want to challenge yourself and see where you line up and see what you can achieve. That's always a burning desire in the back of my mind.”

- Aine Tighe

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 13: Aine Tighe of the Dockers and . Tara Bohanna of the Suns compete for the ball during the round 10 AFLW match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Gold Coast Suns at Fremantle Oval on March 13, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images via AFL Photos )

Tighe wasn't the only one breathing a sigh of relief as she finally got to run out for the Freo Dockers.

"One of the biggest impacts is the effect that it's had on family because they were a rock for me getting through the last couple of years, and now I can see how much enjoyment they're getting out of it," she said.

Hailing from County Leitrim, Tighe describes her hometown as "a really small town within a small rural county, we're always the underdog and almost up against it but there's just a really strong community spirit".

When she first moved down under, the whole parish turned out to her going away party, and now Tighe proudly says "there's a big Freo bandwagon in Ireland".

“They're all getting up at 4am to watch the games live and that's when you can see the impact that it has on that side of the world as well, it certainly makes it all worthwhile," she said.

Like many of the AFLW's Irish recruits, Tighe came from Gaelic football, something she says is "unavoidable at home".

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 05: Aine Tighe of the Dockers marks the ball against Tayla Harris of the Demons during the round nine AFLW match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Melbourne Demons at Optus Stadium on March 05, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images via AFL Photos)

"Everyone gets roped in to play, particularly at the underage level, it's just an institution," she said.

Likening it to the AFL culture here in Australia she nods to the rite of passage Aussie kids follow when they start Auskick.

"It's the very same as footy here, as soon as you turn five the kids are getting involved," Tighe said.

One notable distinction Tighe saw immediately was the lack of pathway for the girls wasn't the same as the boys, like it was back home, something she found "bizarre."

"That's something that surprised me over here, that that pathway wasn't there for girls, given that sport is such a huge part of Australian culture it made us reflect on how fortunate we were at home," she said.

"We played alongside the boys at some of the underage levels, but we always had our own girls' team as well so, sometimes we were actually getting twice the amount of footy."

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 12: Aine Tighe of the Dockers handballs during the round six AFLW match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Carlton Blues at Fremantle Oval on February 12, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images via AFL Photos)

Now she's part of the resolution as the next generation learn from her about a game she's simultaneously grown to love.

Plus, she's managed to learn a thing or two herself in the process.