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Mia, 17, chases ‘cool honour’ of first Jewish female footballer to be drafted

Jono Baruch
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Mia 2nd

Mia Zielinksi, in red jersey (Peter Haskin)

Published: 14 December 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Mia Zielinski is hoping to break new ground in the AFLW when the drafts are announced on Monday.

Mia Zielinski is hopeful of breaking new ground. The 18-year-old is like hundreds of other young girls across the country waiting for their names to be called out on Monday to realise their football dreams. Should Zielinski’s name get called, it will see her name etched into Jewish sporting history.

It is just over 12 months since Harry Sheezel was the toast of the Ajax Football Club and Jewish community when he was drafted and went on to dominate his debut season at North Melbourne.

There could be cause for celebration at the Jackas (aka Ajax) once again.

While it’s far from a fait accompli, Zielinski is poised to become the first Jackette to be drafted into the AFL Women's competition since its inception in 2017.

There are several Jackettes and Jewish footballers who have previously and currently feature in the VFLW competition, the state league below the national competition.

After a strong two years playing for the Sandringham Dragons in the Coates Talent League, Zielinski is hoping to buck the trend and become the AFLW trailblazer in the Jewish community.

Zielinski, who models her game on current Essendon skipper Bonnie Toogood, has developed a reputation as one of the powerful key forwards in the draft pool.

My dad and his brothers grew up playing for Ajax, so it was special when I got to play for the Jackettes.

She was the leading goal scorer for the Sandringham Dragons as a 17-year-old, and regularly has a big impact on matches through her strong marking ability and composure when the ball hits the ground. Her long kicking is just another weapon up her sleeve.

Footy has always been a part of Mia’s life, having grown up playing with the boys and following her siblings Corey and Loki down to the Ajax Football Club, a club where her father, uncles and cousins all played.

Mia with her brothers Loki and Corey (Ajax FC)
Mia with her brothers Loki and Corey (Ajax FC)

"It's all I've ever known," she told Plus 61J this week. "I've got two older brothers. I pretty much followed them down to Ajax (Football Club) when I was four or five years old. Kicking the footy with them and my dad. They’re all real big influences.

“Dad used to coach Loki’s team and he let me join in with their training sessions to get an extra session a week in. I've basically grown up in a big footy household, always around the game."

When asked what it was like when she debuted for the Jackettes, the girls’ team at her family’s club, the first word that came to Zielinski’s mind was "special".

"My dad and all his brothers grew up playing for the Ajax seniors, all my cousins as well so it was a very special moment whenever I got to play a few games for the Jackettes," she said.

It hasn't really sunk in yet just how huge it would be. If it does happen it would be really cool,

“They're two people (my brothers) that I've been able to just go to the park and kick a footy with. Especially during COVID, when we'd go to the park every day and be nagging each other to come have a kick. There's a great photo of Corey, Loki and I after training taken this year that I'll cherish forever."

While it's still not certain that Zielinski knows what her fate will be come Monday night, she is aware of the "cool honour" that would come with being the first Jewish girl drafted into the AFLW competition. She said she would happily accept the role model tag that comes with it.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet just how huge it would be. If it does happen it would be really cool," she said, "for younger Ajax girls and Jewish girls in the community to see someone playing in the AFLW competition potentially and have something to aspire to."

"You can’t be what you can't see. So, if I can be that person for the community, it would be really cool.”

Ajax Football Club President Alida Lipton said it would be "an incredible achievement" if Zielinski became the first Jackette to be drafted to the AFLW. "For Mia personally, for her family, for the whole Ajax Football Club, but particularly the junior club because that's where she played all of her junior footy.

About the author

Jono Baruch

Jono Baruch is a Melbourne freelance sports journalist. He has covered football seasons, summers of cricket and recently reported on the 2022 Maccabiah Games in Israel.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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