Sophie Conway celebrates after kicking her first goal for the Lions.
Sophie Conway celebrates after kicking her first goal for the Lions. AFL Media

Lions rookie shares goal with Mum

AFLW: After kicking her first goal for the Brisbane Lions, Sophie Conway looked straight to the heavens to deliver the emotional message: "That one's for you Mum".

The 18-year-old was making her maiden appearance in the AFLW, the goal coming just five minutes into last Saturday's 2017 grand final rematch between the Lions and the Adelaide Crows at Norwood.

As she was embraced by teammates, Conway's thoughts were with her mother, Christine, who passed away last June after a four-year battle with cancer.

 Her act of pressing her finger to her lips was later copied by teammates after the 12-point victory - a gesture which came under some fire until the significance of it was realised.

"It was all for Mum," the plucky forward recalled as she prepared for Sunday's first home clash of the year, against the Bulldogs at South Pine Sports Complex.

Christine Conway was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 but Conway revealed the gravity of her mother's fight didn't "hit home" until three years later when the cancer had spread to the brain.

 

Kaitlyn Ashmore (left) struggles for possession against the Crows.
Kaitlyn Ashmore (left) struggles for possession against the Crows. ROY VANDERVEGT

"It was very scary," she said.

"Unfortunately, it was a bit of a waiting game in the end.

"I miss her so much."

The family were forced to say their goodbyes just before Conway's Aussie rules career began to take off.

A product of the Zillmere Eagles, she represented the Allies in an under-18 game at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, made the All-Australian U18 team and was then drafted by the Lions.

"It was tough. Mum never got to see or hear anything of those achievements of mine," she said.

 

Kaitlyn Ashmore finds space against the Crows.
Kaitlyn Ashmore finds space against the Crows. ROY VANDERVEGT

Conway had been a standout hockey player, representing her state and country at junior carnivals.

She admitted her mother might have liked her to continue with that sport.

"They (mums) would obviously rather you not running around and getting tackled," she said.

"At the end of 2016 I did get a bit of an injury. Mum was like 'I prefer you stayed with hockey'."

No doubt Christine would have been looking down with pride as Conway slotted that first goal after lining up on a tight angle from a mark.

Conway had a bit to contend with - namely booing from the one-eyed South Australian crowd.

"Coming into the AFLW I've wanted to nail down a routine, something to focus on," she said.

 

Lions players celebrate after their win over the Crows.
Lions players celebrate after their win over the Crows. ROY VANDERVEGT

"With thousands of people in the crowd booing you, you want to block all of that out.

"Hearing the crowd, it just motivated me even more to kick the goal.

"I went back and it went it went in.

"It was such a good feeling. I was stoked."

Among the small contingent of Lions fans at the game were father John and brothers Isaac and Ben, who had all gotten Conway into Aussies rules and supporting Collingwood - until last year anyway.

"Yep, part of the black-and- white army ... but not any more now," Conway said.

Brother Isaac was a one-time Brisbane Lions rookie, now playing in the VFL with Port Melbourne.

"I've always had a lot of passion for it, growing up, watching my brothers play and kicking the footy around with them," Conway said.

Suffice to say, she's rapt to now be making a career in the sport for herself.

"It's pretty surreal," she said.

Conway knows Mum would understand.

"Mum was all for my decisions. She was happy either way."

GAME TIMES:

Saturday: Demons v Crows at Casey Fields, 4.05pm (all times AEST); Dockers v Magpies at Optus Stadium, 6.10pm.

Sunday: Lions v Bulldogs at South Pine Sports Complex, 3.35pm.



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