Last Month, Emma Quayle went shopping for a new work purchase.
What was once a stint in Officeworks, flipping through the pages of a crisp new notebook, or comparing the battery life of each voice recorder available, today she’s pulled into her local Bunnings Warehouse.
She picked out a garden chair, a bargain at $6.45 to accompany her Olympus binoculars she bought in the weeks before. Both pieces of equipment were essential for the new recruiter of the Greater Western Sydney Giants (GWS), and the first female recruiter in the history of the AFL.
The former journalist at The Age spent years delving into the young blood coming through the ranks of the sport, and is now taking her expertise to Sydney’s West where she’ll scout the young men soon to turn into AFL giants.
Emma’s media journey began in 1999, when she joined The Age as a trainee. With a burning passion for writing from a very young age, she was determined to break into the industry and make her dreams a reality.
“For as long as I can remember I’ve loved writing, ever since I was in primary school when I’d write little books and have them typed up,” she said.
That love for journalism was combined with her love for Australian Rules Football.
An Essendon supporter growing up, Emma would accompany her mum to matches every weekend.
Very quickly she had partnered her new love for the game and existing love for writing to discover what would be her destined career path.
“The two things were probably always tied together in my mind,” she said.
“As soon as I got to The Age as a trainee, I started hassling the editor about joining the sport section.”
And she did, joining the Sports team in 2001.
2001 was a big year for AFL but an even bigger year for Emma, as she got her first glance at the National Draft.
It was the year of the “super draft”, with many future Brownlow Medallists, Premiership players and Captains of the game drafted into the AFL system. Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Dane Swan, Chris Judd, Jimmy Bartel, Luke Ball and Gary Ablett were just a few amongst those selected.
The draft in its entirety fascinated Emma, and kick started her career as one of the most well respected draft experts in the game.
“My first year in sport at The Age was 2001. That was the year Hawthorn chose Luke Hodge over Luke Ball and Chris Judd in the draft. I didn’t write about it that year but I read a lot of what was written about those three players and was fascinated by the thought of how clubs would settle on one over the others – they all sounded so good,” she said.
“That got me interested in the selection process, and as time went on I Ioved finding out about the kids’ backgrounds, and the things that had happened to them on their way to the draft.”
“Everyone who nominates wants the same thing – for a club to call their name out – but they come at it from such different angles.”
While the draft was always on Emma’s mind, she also grew a deep interest in footballer’s lives away from football.
With the public only exposed to the skills on the field, she took an interest to the people who made the AFL great, and share the stories of many beloved Australian sportsmen.
“I like people, and figuring that everyone has a story to tell. To be able to sit down with someone for an hour or so and just talk about their life was the best part of the job, by far,” she said.
“I guess I just enjoyed talking to people about the things they had gone through and how it had made them feel, then taking on the responsibility of helping them get their story out to the world.”
She told the stories of the games greatest.
In 2010, she revealed the secret brain surgery undergone by former Fremantle coach Mark Harvey. She also told the story of (then) Western Bulldogs midfielder Sam Reid’s type one diabetes diagnosis.
Emma also added two books to her already impressive resume. Her first, “The Draft” was released in 2008 and followed the journey of Trent Cotchin, Cyril Rioli, Ben McEvoy, Brad Ebert and Patrick Vezzpremi in the lead up to their 2007 draft. The second, “Nine Lives,” published in June 2010 was a recount of Adam Ramanaskusas’ battle with cancer. The former Essendon wingman was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, and despite a quick recovery, was re-diagnosed in 2006.
Her story telling skills are highlighted by a record three Grant Hattam Trophies, awarded by the AFL Players Association for the journalist who best captures the important aspects of a footballer.
Although she spent years sharing the incredible stories of our most iconic figures in the AFL, Emma’s true love was always the draft.
Combining her love for storytelling, and fascination surrounding the best new recruits, Emma covered the draft all year round, unravelling the past, present and person behind the potential pickups.
As her draft coverage grew each year, so did her readership and so did her presence in the media.
More awards would follow, too, including back-to-back AFL Media Association Awards in 2005 and 2006 for her outstanding draft coverage and a 2016 Quill Award in the ‘Sports Feature’ category.
As the years went on, her extensive draft research and knowledge captured the attention of AFL clubs across the country.
An obvious eye for talent, the potential to move on from journalism into a recruiting role loomed large.
“I had spoken to a few other clubs formally and informally about crossing over to work in recruiting,” she said.
“For the last couple of years I had thought of it as something I might like to do for the right club at the right time, and the clubs I spoke to were fantastic.”
Following years of consideration and deliberation, Emma Quayle made history on February 18th, 2017 when she was announced the new recruiter of the GWS Giants.
In a statement published via Twitter, Emma confirmed her new role with the Giants and made history, as she became the first female recruiter in AFL history.
While there was no shortage of offers to secure her services, she knew her future was at Olympic Park.
“The Giants felt like the perfect fit mostly because of the people I would be working with, and the role I would be taking on,” she said.
“I felt like I would learn a lot and be exposed to all parts of the job if I went there.”
Her groundbreaking movement in football has seen her go from being one of the most influential women in AFL media, to one of the most influential recruiters in the Giants camp.
Even though she is one of many women breaking new territory in the sport, Emma believes women have always been a critical part of football.
“From the day I started in the sport section I was surrounded by highly talented women, both journalists and editors. I was never held back at all,” Emma said.
“I have always enjoyed seeing women do good things in areas that have been traditionally dominated by men, right through all different parts of footy. “
Although Emma’s still shopping around Bunnings for the perfect work supplies, she has settled into her new role exceptionally well.
“I’m enjoying myself a lot. It feels like I am working in the same universe, only on a different planet. It’s all familiar to me, I’m just looking at it all in a different way,” she said.
“It’s been good to experience a new environment and use my brain in a new way… I’m feeling more comfortable all the time and feel like I’m learning new bits and pieces every day.”
“I already feel fully invested in what the Giants want to do and excited at being able to help with that.”
As she departs from her time with The Age, and looks forward to the future with the Giants, Emma Quayle will forever leave a legacy on Australian Rules Football.