Christina Bernardi is a very busy woman.
At Ivanhoe Grammar School she is a PE Teacher, Year 7 Teacher and Girls’ Football Coach, but outside the School, she also had the great honour of playing for Collingwood in this year’s inaugural AFLW season. She played in the famous season-opening match against Carlton which made history when crowds were locked out of the ground due to the overwhelming public response to the launch of women’s football. She recalled a moment during the game when she spied a pair of girls from her Year 7 class waving home-made banners and cheering her on.
So it may come as a surprise that the 2017 season was not always smooth sailing and Christina was often filled with self-doubt, as she outlined in an interview this week. Growing up, football had never been much of an option for girls so she played basketball, only turning her hand to football for the Diamond Creek Women’s team in 2012. Unlike many of her teammates, Christina had never played at state level and struggled to feel as though she belonged at the AFLW. She remembers the draft process as a blur, often asking herself “Oh my god, why am I here?”
Pre-season training for 2018 has now started, and Christina lined up with the rest of the Pies at the first training session on Monday in 30-degree heat. This year, she is determined to turn that self-doubt into self-belief. “You have to believe you deserve to be here, and you can actually do what people expect you to do.”
There can be no doubt whatsoever when it comes to her commitment. Aside from teaching and playing professionally for Collingwood, Christina led her Junior Girls’ Football team to a victorious Grand Final in August, and if that wasn’t enough, she still plays for Diamond Creek in the VFLW. When the Demons qualified for the 2017 Grand Final, a twist of fate – a last minute fixture change – rendered her unable to play as she had already committed to attending the Round Square Regional Conference in South Africa with the School. Although it meant missing out on a big game, she considered South Africa an experience she could never replace.
I suppose that just gives her one more thing to aim for in 2018: a Grand Final. Or three.