Gum walks away from football with the likes of Erin Phillips, Katie Brennan, and Kaitlyn Ashmore quickly becoming household names in Australian sport via their deeds in the AFLW.
The All-Australian midfielder enjoyed a dream farewell to football when she announced her retirement following the GWS Giants’ dominant victory over the Geelong Cats at Manuka Oval on Friday night.
She is far removed from her days on the family’s wheat and sheep farm in Booleroo, when she was a midcourter playing representative country netball and barely knew women’s football existed.
Gum says the game is more athletic, the girls are getting faster, and she simply can’t keep up forever at the ripe old age of 37. But she leaves knowing the game is in good hands.
“It’s just fantastic that girls now have this opportunity to play at a semi-professional level, they really deserve it. It’s quite humbling, watching what they do to be athletes,” Gum said.
“They work jobs, they move interstate, they do everything to play at a semi-professional level, so hopefully in the next few years or however many years, they can play at the elite level, because they deserve it. There’s still a little bit to go but it’s hopefully going to get there.
“When I first started, there was nothing about having an AFL competition. You played at community level and then you went to a national carnival which was pretty mediocre.
“Even as a kid, to think there would be an elite or semi-professional competition was certainly not on my radar.”
While Gum could rarely have even considered prospect of suiting up for an AFL club in her wildest dreams, the kids of today are privy to a dramatically different landscape.
The rapidly-expanding AFLW competition will soon become a 14-team show with Gold Coast, Richmond, St Kilda and West Coast entering in 2020.
It means young girls will be able to find more female role models on the football field, much like a small group did when they watched the Giants train on Thursday.
“To get a text message later from a mum saying how much we had made their day is pretty amazing,” Giants coach Alan McConnell said.
“It’s not as many people as you’d like right now, but it is quite special, isn’t it? Coming from the boys club environment that AFL footy is, it’s really stark and significant to me to be able to see that.”
Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times