When 21-year-old Delma Gisu first moved away from her home on Mer Island to play Australian rules football, she did so with a clear goal in mind.
"I wanted to be the first Torres Strait Islander girl in the AFLW," she said. "I wrote it on a piece of paper and put it on the ceiling, so every time that I wake up it’s the first thing that I look at.”
After tonight, Gisu will have to set herself a new goal when she makes her AFLW debut in the Greater Western Sydney forward line at UNSW Oval in Canberra against Geelong.
As a ‘‘family person’’ who idolises her mum, living away from the tiny Torres Strait island where ‘‘we’re all related’’ has been tough for Gisu.
‘‘My dad left when I was only two years of age, so mum raised all of us eight kids by herself, a single mother. I always think: how does she do it?’’
Tonight will be special for both mother and daughter, with Gisu’s mum coming to Canberra from Queensland to watch her debut.
‘‘I’m just happy that she’s going to be here to watch me play for the first time, running onto the field,’’ Gisu said. ‘‘She hasn’t seen me play before.’’
Gisu’s first passion was basketball before she finally relented to a high school teacher in the Northern Territory who insisted ‘‘all the kids did AFL as their top sport’’.
What started as a reluctant agreement to play ‘‘just one game’’ became life-changing after she was spotted by a talent scout.
Gisu was whisked through the AFL’s pathways system: she played in the Indigenous KickStart Program before representing the Woomeras, and the Queensland and All-Australian Youth Girls sides.
‘‘If I wanted my name to be out there I had to go to a bigger city to get known,’’ she said, and so she soon made the decision to move to Brisbane. That was where her Giants journey began when GWS coach Alan McConnell saw her kick five goals in a game against the Gold Coast.
‘‘I’m so blessed to run onto the field and just to say that I made it,’’ Gisu said ahead of tonight’s final game of the season. ‘‘Someone was going to debut [this weekend] but I wasn’t expecting it to be me.’’
Both GWS and Geelong are hoping to bounce back after each suffered 30-plus-point losses last weekend. The Giants play in front of their fans in Canberra for the first time this year, and will be looking to finish a disappointing season on a high.
The Cats will pose fierce competition – they are second in Conference B and need a win to ensure they qualify for preliminary finals.