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From Ireland to Broken Hill, then Essendon

This is one of the more incredible sporting stories you will ever hear.

A girl, born in the Republic of Ireland in a little town called Roscrea, about as far away from a Sherrin as you can get, reaching the highest level of Australian Rules in a little over three years.

In fact, Megan Ryan’s rise is so meteoric you’d struggle to believe it if you saw it on a movie screen.

From the playing fields of Camogie – it’s an Irish stick-and-ball team sport played by women -to wearing the famous black and red of the Essendon football club, it is incredible story.

And everything that has happened for Megan was built right here in Broken Hill at the South Broken Hill Football Club.
Megan told us how the journey began.

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“I had just finished work on a Friday, and I got a message [from the list manager at Essendon],” Megan told us.

That call developed into a Facetime chat where Meg and the club discussed her football journey and her versatility as a player.

They mentioned there might be a position open for her as a ruck on their list and asked Meg what she had going on over the weekend. “Not much,” she said.

The following day she was booked on an early flight out of Adelaide and put through her paces at The Hangar, Essendon’s famous training facility.

She had a three-hour trial with the Bomber Andrew Phillips and was back in Adelaide later that day.

After she didn’t hear anything, Meg was happy to put it down to one hell of an experience and was back at work on Monday.

She told her workmates about it and was ready to put the experience behind her when Essendon called again, this time offering Meg a spot on their inaugural AFLW playing list.

It is an interesting time to join the Bombers. The men’s side is one of the most successful in AFL history. The women’s team is in its very first year.

“Obviously Essendon, the Bombers, are a massive AFL team,” Meg says.

“But it put me at ease that this was the first year [for the women’s team] and I am just starting my AFL journey too, and we can grow together.”

The AFLW is the pinnacle of Aussie Rules.

It’s hard to believe that in the space of two years, Meg has made it.

But that’s exactly what has happened.

Meg began her sporting journey in the Republic of Ireland, where she was born, playing Camogie.

“Camogie is our national sport. The best way to describe it is a mix of lacrosse and AFL.

“You have a stick and a round ball, and basically if you hit it over the bar it’s one point and if you hit it in the back of the net it is three points.”

And it wasn’t a brief dalliance, Megan started playing Camogie as soon as she could hold a stick.

“I started playing when I was about three or four. I played with the boys.”

After a while, the sport grew in reputation and participation numbers amongst junior girls.

Once Megan turned eight there was a girl’s competition, she could play in.

“I kinda just worked my way up to county level, so I was playing at a county level [the highest level] from the age of about 12,”

When she turned 17, she was able to play at the senior level.

“That was a dream come true. I didn’t think my sporting achievements would surpass that, to be honest.”

How wrong she was.

Megan still holds a candle for that elusive Camogie championship but admits, “I am solely focussed on football at the moment”.

She got a good taste of AF during her one and only season at North Adelaide in the SANFLW.

The Roosters defeated Sturt twice in the finals to win their flag in 2022, including a stirring comeback performance in the Grand Final. Megan was a premiership player.

And here’s where the Broken Hill connection comes in.

“Tess and I [a friend she moved to Broken Hill with] were asked to join South in a scrimmage match on a Saturday morning.”

Sensing the opportunity to make friends and scratch her competitive itch, Megan jumped at the chance.

She impressed enough that South women’s coach Jake Peters asked her to play for South in the upcoming season. “I absolutely loved that idea.”

After getting through the season and building her skills “fairly well,” Megan was off to the South Australian Country Championships, and the rest – as the say – is history.

Keep an eye out for Megan in the AFLW this season, not only is she one of ours, there are great things to come from her.

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