Ex-AFL player signs in local football club

Aaron Edwards training during his time with the Tigers. Picture: RICHMOND FOOTBALL CLUB

By Dongyun Kwon

Healesville Football and Netball Club (FNC) sets to get into the 2024 season with the signing of an ex-AFL player.

Aaron Edwards, who had a long career in AFL and VFL, has joined the local club, thanks to his relationship with the club’s vice president Simon Gordon and the coach Ryan Webster.

The forward played 94 games in AFL for three different clubs; West Coast, North Melbourne and Richmond and also played for Frankston Football Club in VFL.

Football wasn’t Edwards’ first sport he got into.

Edwards said he’d never played footy until he was about 14.

“My background is Polynesian, so rugby was the number one sport,” he said.

“I started footy late. I played rugby beforehand and played a bit of soccer beforehand.”

His footy journey started from one of the junior football clubs in Hampton Park.

“Then, I joined another junior football club in Endeavour Hills which was a division 1 club and I had good success there,” Edwards said.

“I ended up getting picked to represent Dandenong Stingrays which was my area’s Tac Cup team. I played not much in my first year but I had a reasonably good second year.

“I was lucky enough to get drafted by the West Coast Eagles in the rookie draft pick nine. After that, I played a year for Frankston Football Club which was a VFL team and I had a good year and got drafted again by North Melbourne.”

Edwards spent about six years in North Melbourne where he spent most of his football career, playing 78 games before he got traded to Richmond Tigers where he spent two years.

The most memorable part of his professional career was winning a final in 2007 against Hawthorn when he played for North Melbourne, although his team ended up failing to advance to the grand final in that season.

His first debut game for AFL with West Coast against Richmond on MCG and a milestone of 50 games were also meaningful to him.

The 40-year-old player said he had to get through intense competition to get into the playlist every week.

“Each football club has 42 to 44 players on the AFL list and only 20 get to play every week,” he said.

“There were frustrations. Sometimes you get taken out of the team when you thought you shouldn’t have, there were also times you were hoping to get a game and you missed out.

“Also injuries. I have broken my leg and I’ve had a few injuries. The frustration of injuring yourself is hard when you try to get back in because once you lose your spot, it’s very hard to get back in.”

To overcome the frustrations, Edwards focused on what he could control.

“There’s nothing you can do besides play well and train well,” Edwards said.

Edwards said he has developed a good relationship with the Healesville FNC’s vice president Simon Gordon and coach Ryan Webster since he met them in the Bali Masters 2023.

“They asked me if I wanted to come along and play footy together,” he said.

“A lot of football clubs are very much the same. There are good people and coaches around and everyone wants to help out players.

“But there is obviously a difference between the professional and amateur level, in terms of talent.”

Aaron Edwards played with Healesville FNC for a practice match for the first time on Saturday 23 March.

Healesville FNC president Toby Nillman said Edwards’ experience would improve the team’s performance.

“He’s one of 22 and we’ve got to get the best 22 to win a premiership,” he said.

“As a community club, we are trying to do our best to attract good players to improve football in our club and our community.”

The ex-AFL player said listening to coaches, learning kicking and hard work are the priorities for the kids who want to be professional footballers.

“If you kick well, you could build everything else around that,” Edwards said.

“If you can’t kick, you won’t get drafted but if you can kick well, you can be a very good player who can play many positions.”