With a number of roles in AFL London, the Great Britain national teams, and AFL England, Sarah Howell is extremely busy, but she loves the sport and has seen it become a major part of her life.
Her love of the game all began when she was asked to go and watch a Wimbledon Hawks game. Along with her partner, David, she reluctantly agreed to attend. When they turned up, David was given a full playing kit and asked to get ready to start at Full Forward in 20 minutes!
“That was that – I watched them play, had no clue what was going on but I was hooked,” Howell said. “Over the last few years I started to take a greater interest in the sport and its become part of my life!”
What Sarah loves about the game is the athleticism of the players, more specifically, the pace and intensity at which the players consistently produce throughout a match. She also loves the off-field aspect – the spirit of the clubs and teams which she has become a part of since her first introduction to the game.
Sarah’s roles within AFL Europe include Secretary and Treasurer at the Wimbledon Hawks, Co-Chair of AFL London, Finance Manager for GB Bulldogs and Swans, and interim Treasurer at AFL England.
Those are certainly a number of busy roles, and Sarah says she wonders where she finds the time for it all, but thanks to a number of great committees, it all works.
Being in all these roles means Sarah has seen her fair share of funny or interesting stories both on and off the field.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint any one story, but my off-field highlight from the 2019 European Championships involved the [GB] Swans captain asking the most qualified AFL umpire on site and, in fact probably Australia, whether it was his first tournament. The story will become folk lore and I’m sure will be shared at many umpiring courses in the future,” Howell said.
In terms of domestic on-field highlights, that also happened this year, as the club where it all started for Sarah, the Wimbledon Hawks men’s team reached the Grand Final for the first time in six years.
“Internationally, the continued development of the GB squads is something I am passionate about and seeing them improve game-on-game is amazing. I sound like a proud mum!” Howell said.
“Being presented with a winners medal by the GB Bulldogs for the work I do for them behind the scenes was amazing – to feel part of the team without having set foot on the pitch has a big impact on me and helps me justify the hours spent on these things.”
With her role with the GB National teams, Sarah said that she was over the moon for the GB Bulldogs after they won the 2019 European Championships Grand Final against Denmark. Looking ahead, Sarah hopes they can replicate that performance and push for a top two spot at next year’s International Cup.
The GB Swans had a more challenging tournament, finishing third but produced an impressive performance in their last match against AFL London team, the Wandsworth Demons. Looking ahead for them, Sarah is looking forward to seeing them develop from a new, young squad into a strong team ahead of the International Cup.
This continued development is a positive for the sport in Europe, and with a number of goals in mind not just for herself, but for what can be achieved across the continent, Sarah is excited for the future.
“The sport can only grow from here – the talent across the European team is amazing and for a sport most of all only recently starting, the game can only continue to grow,” Howell said.
“I would like to see junior footy grow across Europe as this will be a great stepping stone for the future of the sport.”