By Chris McAsey

Born in Germany, raised in Malaysia, studying in Perth and drafted to play AFLW. It’s not the usual pathway for a footballer, but Emmelie Fiedler is a young woman who takes things in her (quite long) stride.

‘For me, it’s pretty straightforward,’ Emmelie says of her circuitous route to AFLW, ‘But everyone else seems to find it a little confusing!’

Emmelie’s father David (originally from Perth) and her German mother Sandra met while both were working in Malaysia, and later started a family.

Emmelie and her older sisters Zoe and Samantha went to a German school in Kuala Lumpur where footy wasn’t on the radar, until David heard the the Malaysian Warriors were starting a women’s team.

‘When dad first moved over to Malaysia, he played for the Warriors,’ Emmelie explains. ‘There’s quite a big expat community in Malaysia and when he caught wind of the Warriors starting a women’s team, he thought it would be fun for me and my sisters to get involved.’

Emmelie had never watched a full game of footy, or kicked a Sherrin before she and her sisters joined the Warriors’ training program in 2019.

Emmelie (back, middle) and the 2019 Asian Championship winning Malaysian Warriors.

‘I’m pretty sure I was terrible to start with,’ she says. ‘But we were quite tall and athletic, so I think we picked it up pretty quickly.’

While Emmelie and her sisters enjoyed the game a lot, being part of the Warriors community was a key to becoming attached to the sport.

‘I hadn’t really played a sport before that had such a community aspect to it,’ Emmelie says.

‘Having a team of girls that would meet up outside the footy club and do a lot of after-training activities, it was a community that I enjoyed so much.’

Emmelie’s fast-track to footy accelerated when she was part of the first Malaysian Warriors women’s team to play at the AFL Asian Championships in Thailand.

‘It would have been a couple months into training,’ she recalls. ‘It was very, very new!

‘I think they were my first competition games, besides a couple of intra-club scratchies.

‘We ended up winning the Championship, that was pretty cool!’

Emmelie (right) and teammate with the 2019 Asian Championships silverware.

The Warriors men’s team included some ex-AFL players and Emmelie says she was ‘star struck’ to be in the same touring party.

‘I was like, “Oh, my God, no way – they’ve played professional footy.”

‘That blew my mind!’

While winning a Championship in Thailand was a whirlwind start to Emmelie’s footy journey, things were about to get crazier.

After moving to Perth to study marketing in 2020, she joined her sisters playing for Curtin University Tigers in the Perth Football League (PFL).

‘We played there for about a season and a bit, then some of the girls there were like, “Em, you’re still young, you’re picking up the game pretty fast. How about you just try out for the WAFLW [West Australian Football League Women]?”

‘I was quite hesitant at first because I was really enjoying playing at Curtin.

‘We were winning premierships and I was having fun playing with my sisters.’

Eventually, she decided to ‘give it a crack’.

After a season with East Fremantle reserves in the WAFLW, Emmelie was promoted to their senior team.

By round six of her first senior season, she was leading the WAFLW for hit outs when she was drafted by Fremantle in the 2023 AFLW (Australian Football League Women) Supplementary Draft.

Emmelie after being drafted by the Fremantle Dockers in the 2023 AFLW Supplementary Draft.

In an understatement, Emmelie says there ‘wasn’t really much time between playing in the Perth Footy League and being in the AFLW.’ And she quickly became aware of the huge leap she’d taken when she started training with Fremantle.

‘It was crazy to see how professional AFLW was,’ Emmelie says.

‘Just to see the way the girls dealt with the work-life-sport balance was really inspiring.

‘We had mums, we had full-time workers, we had doctors in the team.

‘For a uni student, it just seemed amazing that they could juggle all of that while still performing on the field.’

At 187cm tall, Emmelie credits her height and athleticism for her rapid rise, but at Fremantle she was given specialist ruck skills coaching for the first time.

‘Up until AFLW, my ruck skills really came from my volleyball background,’ she explains. ‘My signature move was that I could smash the ball out of the ruck the way I smashed a volleyball, for my fast little rovers to run onto.

‘That won us a lot of clearances, and I made a little name for myself.’

But like her experiences at the Warriors, Curtin University and East Fremantle, the highlight of Emmelie’s first AFLW season at Fremantle was spending time with her team mates.

‘I had never travelled interstate outside of WA,’ she says. ’It was really fun getting on planes with the girls and spending late nights chatting and playing card games in hotel rooms.

‘Getting to know all the girls was just really enjoyable.’

Now back starring with East Fremantle for the WAFLW season, Emmelie was recently selected in the squad for the first women’s interstate game between the WAFLW and SANFLW [South Australian National Football League Women].

She is excited about the opportunity to represent Western Australia in the historic game in Perth on 4 May.

‘I’m excited to see how we compete against South Australia,’ Emmelie says.

‘There’s such a strong women’s footy community in South Australia. The Adelaide Crows were reigning premiers for ages, so they’ll have some really good talent out there.’

Whatever the result, Emmelie’s philosophy on sport and her AFL journey is Warrior Zen-like and inspiring.

‘Wherever the wind takes me, I’m happy to be healthy and fit and play the sport that I enjoy.

‘Whatever opportunities come up, I’m grateful.’

Emmelie hard at training with the Fremantle Dockers.