“I’ve always loved footy – I always had a footy in my hand when I was younger.”
AFLW changed Rocky Cranston’s life, and on Saturday afternoon she will celebrate 50 career games.
And what better way to do so, than against your former club in the city where your footballing journey began?
Born in New Zealand, Cranston’s love for footy started early in life.
“My family is all from New Zealand so we have a rugby background – it wasn’t exactly like Mum took me down to Auskick or anything,” Cranston told the Geelong Advertiser in 2019.
“I think she was appalled I had a football in my hand rather than a rugby ball, but she’s come around. She loves it now.”
Growing up on a Maryborough farm, her first taste of the sport came via a Year 12 ‘opportunity day’ – which saw female students given a chance to trial footy.
Following that, Cranston moved to Ballarat to join an over 18’s women’s team, which then led her to the North Geelong Magpies.
It was there she also took up grid iron – a star player for the Geelong Buccaneers – but declined the opportunity to pursue that sport in America when news of a national women’s football league came about.
Initially slated to begin in 2020 – which she believed would have ruled her out of playing – the fact it would start in 2017 was a wake-up call for Cranston.
Undergoing a complete lifestyle change, her dream of playing footy at the highest level officially became a reality in 2016, when she represented the Western Bulldogs in the AFL Women’s exhibition games.
She was then taken by Melbourne with pick 24 in the 2016 draft, playing 13 games across two seasons before forming part of Geelong’s inaugural AFLW side in 2019.
She played a further 21 matches for the Cats across three seasons, and found herself at the Kennel ahead of season six.
We might be biased – but her 15 games in the red, white and blue so far have arguably been her best.
Having kicked at least one goal in every game bar one this season, her teammates couldn’t be more thrilled to now have the powerful, fierce and creative Cranston on their side.
“She’s had a different journey to a lot of players – so to be able to reach 50 games is so special because she’s super hard-working, and puts others ahead of herself,” said Elle Bennetts.
“I think it’s pretty incredible for Rocky - having played at a number of other clubs, just to come here and feel like this home for her and be her full self and embrace footy,” Kirsty Lamb said.
“Hard and tough is how I would describe her. She has a never-say-die attitude.”
Ellie Blackburn said the club was proud to have her: “We’re so grateful that we get to have her in our colours and representing our football club”, while Eleanor Brown admitted she was happy to be on the same side.
“She’s fearless on the field – I’m very glad we’re on the same team and I’m not versing her,” Brown said.
“It’s extra special for Rock – she’s had a bit of a tough ride, but I think it’s been really cool that she’s been able to change her life,” De Berry said.
“She’s ferocious – she’s definitely the player that will tackle the hardest, but is also the most caring and loving teammate out there.”
Cranston has come a long way since the dreadlocks of 2017.
On Saturday afternoon, against Geelong in the city of Ballarat, her 50th AFLW game couldn’t be scripted anymore perfectly.