FOOTY PIONEER MIKELLA,

North Coast Weekender - - Front Page - Mark Don­ald­son

MIKELLA John­son’s pi­o­neer­ing ef­forts in women’s foot­ball at War­wick Se­nior High School have carved a path­way for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

The 16-year-old Maranga­roo res­i­dent was the first fe­male to be se­lected in the school’s foot­ball pro­gram at age 13 and re­mains a part of it to this day.

Women’s foot­ball did not have the pro­file then as it does now and she ad­mit­ted it was a chal­lenge to be ac­cepted by her male coun­ter­parts.

But she had played in boys’ ju­nior foot­ball from ages six to 12 in Cool­binia so was ac­cus­tomed to prov­ing her­self.

“Be­ing with guys for me wasn’t that hard,” she said.

“I think be­ing ac­cepted by them was a bit of a chal­lenge, but it helped me grow more and when it comes to games I’m just one of them.”

John­son is among the state’s most tal­ented foot­ballers for her age, hav­ing been a part of the WA un­der-15s team last year and a mem­ber of the State Academy since 2015. She is a 100-- game player in the WA Women’s Foot­ball League and has spent time as a youth girls am­bas­sador for the WA Foot­ball Com­mis­sion.

She con­sid­ers th­ese high­lights in her bur­geon­ing foot­ball ca­reer.

The Coastal Ti­tans player started ju­nior coach­ing this year say­ing she has a pas­sion for pro­mot­ing girls’ footy.

“If it wasn’t for so many strong women over the years push­ing for­ward, we couldn't be where we are now with the game,” she said.

“I am find­ing it fan­tas­tic to see so many younger girls com­ing through to play.”

The ex­cite­ment of women’s foot­ball go­ing pro­fes­sional in the AFLW this year has given John­son the ul­ti­mate goal.

She draws in­spi­ra­tion from the per­se­ver­ance of 2015 Ti­tans premier­ship player Re­nee Forth, who was se­lected as a mar­quee sign­ing by GWS, but missed the in­au­gu­ral AFLW sea­son af­ter rup­tur­ing her an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment.

“Be­cause she also has coach­ing skills she was still able to be part of GWS as de­vel­op­ment coach dur­ing her re­hab,” John­son said.

“Any strong mo­ti­vated girl or woman in­spires me, even the young ones I coach.

“I love to see this sport be­ing en­joyed by so many more now. To be part of that growth not only helps oth­ers, it pushes me for­ward.”

John­son is a nom­i­nee in the Com­mu­nity News­pa­per Group’s Lo­cal Sports Stars awards. To nom­i­nate a ju­nior ath­lete visit www.lo­cal­sportsstars.com.au.

Pic­ture: Martin Ken­nealey d470590

Foot­ball player and coach Mikella John­son.

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