Despite growing up in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, Tahlia Read had no choice but to be a part of the burgeoning east coast Purple Army.
Born to a WA family that moved east for work opportunities, she and her brother were told that they had to support Freo if they wanted to keep a roof over the heads.
She went to Freo’s round 15 game against Carlton, and her favourite player was Luke Ryan as they both played for Calder Cannons and the Maribyrnong Park Lions in the Essendon District Football League.
Then on Thursday night, her wildest dreams came true when she was drafted to Fremantle with their final pick of the NAB AFLW Draft.
It was reward for an outstanding 2022 season where the 18-year-old forward won the best and fairest for the Calder Cannons – another Club Ryan played for.
“It doesn’t feel real just yet. I’m still on cloud nine, I’m so, so excited and so thankful that Fremantle have given me this opportunity. I just can’t wait to get over there and meet the team and start this amazing journey,” Read said.
“My absolute dream was to play for Freo. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to move to WA. All of my extended family are in WA. Pretty much every single one of my relatives have offered a bed!”
Her evening got even better when she received a surprise congratulatory message from Ryan, who had spotted on Instagram that Freo had drafted a fellow player from ‘Marby Park’.
“A lot of the AFLW girls have texted me and it’s so surreal how welcoming they’ve been as they haven’t even met me yet. I already feel like I’m a part of the team,” Read said.
“It’s going to be so amazing. I remember when AFLW came in, my Dad and I went and watched Ebony and Kara Antonio, and to think I’ll be playing alongside them and players like Kiara Bowers will be amazing. I can’t wait to learn from them.
“My number one favourite Freo player has to be Luke Ryan as he’s from Calder as well. He actually messaged to congratulate me on Instagram and said ‘I heard you’re from Marby’ and I was over the moon, that made my whole night.
“Obviously being a Freo fan and him coming from Marby, I’ve always had a soft spot for him.”
Having not played against adults, Read said her number one goal was to build her strength to get ready to compete at AFLW level.
She added she would miss her teammates at Calder as she made the big move across the Nullarbor.
“I’ve absolutely loved playing for Calder this season, I made so many friends and I think my love for the sport really grew and that showed in how I played,” Read said.
“To win their best and fairest, it topped off the amazing season, I was so thankful and loved all the girls and all the coaches, they really helped my game and gave me confidence in myself.
“I loved every minute of it and I’m really going to miss that team!”