From Recovery to Rising Star
12 May; Alex Ferguson

For Bachelor of Science student Isabel Huntington, being selected as the number one AFLW draft pick in 2017 was simply the beginning of a series of accolades. Now coming out of her third season with the Western Bulldogs, Huntington has just been awarded the AFLW Rising Star and has been named as a member of the AFLW All-Australian team.

However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 21 year old student-athlete, who has dealt with multiple season ending injuries, including two ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments, one of which she tore during her first season playing in the AFLW.

“For me personally, [this season] was almost relieving, I was able to get back out on the field and play most of the games without hiccups or injuries. It was a real help in building my confidence as a player. With every game that went on, I felt more comfortable on the field.”

A third-year student at the University, Huntington is also in the tricky position of having to balance her studies in Human Structure and Function with her training and matches.

“We’re fortunate because there isn’t too much overlap in the semester and in the AFLW season, but they extended it a bit this year.”

In dealing with the overlap, Huntington spoke of the importance of good preparation well in advance of the football season. Learning to juggle university subjects with multiple training team sessions and individual conditioning sessions each week wasn’t easy, but for Huntington, she liked the variety of weekly activities.

“I quite enjoy the balance of having both of them, because it provides an outlet from either one,” Huntington told us.

“You’re not getting too sucked into the whole footy lifestyle. I’ve got the outlet of Uni, and that’s a really different thing. The same goes for Uni – when things get busy I have got my footy.”

As a member of the University’s Elite Athlete Program, Huntington is also supported by Melbourne University Sport in balancing the needs of her training schedule with her academic commitments. Already training three evenings a week with the Bulldogs as well as attending multiple appointments and sessions, Huntington’s schedule is jam packed. However, as a student-athlete, Huntington is able to use her spare time during the university day to train in the MU Sport facilities, where EAP staff are able to support her.”

“[The EAP] has been brilliant! I think the flexibility they provide is one of the main things that would help most athletes at uni. Just being understanding in terms of the flexibility that we require in terms of assessment and attendance is amazing, especially catering things to when our competitions are running. It could get pretty hectic if it were all guns blazing at Uni and footy at the same time!”

However, like many of us, Huntington has had everything put on hold due to COVID-19.

“We finished the season two weeks early, which is unfortunate,” she said. “However, we’re still waiting to hear whether the VFL season will be up and running, and what the dates for the AFLW season will be.”

Although stuck at home, Huntington has had to get creative to ensure she is following the training plans set by the Bulldogs. “We’re still continuing a bit of training with running and gym programs with what we have at home,” she explained.

“Everyone’s got to be a bit adaptable with it all. You have to find what you have around the house to make into weights and see how you go!

Being at home has also given time for old sibling rivalries to reignite, with her two brothers always down for a kick or to chat footy. In fact, one of her older brothers, Lachie Huntington, is a University of Melbourne alumnus and well loved player at the Melbourne University Blacks FC, having played his 100th game there last year.

But as for what life post-COVID-19 will bring? Huntington shared with us her keen interest in working in the medical sciences after finishing her Bachelor of Science this year at the University.

“I’m planning to do an honour’s year next year,” she told us. “I’m currently doing some research in the biomedical engineering space, looking into synthesising 3D organ models. It’s very interesting and keeps me on my toes!”

It is an incredibly fascinating project, fitting for such a talented individual. It only seems appropriate to celebrate her Rising Star award and fantastic season once more, and to wish her the best of luck with the remainder of the University year, and next football season.