Since the age of five, Claudia Bailey has played Australian Rules Football whenever she could get her hands on a footy.
After playing Auskick until she was 12 when rules came in that meant she wasn’t allowed to play, Claudia continued playing at school and got selected in a Riverina team. Following that, she joined Thurgoona Football Club but could only train with the under 21’s as she was too old to play.
Her desire to pursue the game eventually paid off when she got the opportunity to play for a Greater Western Sydney Giants development squad and played in a tournament for AFL Southern NSW open women’s squad.
In January 2018, she joined the West London Wildcats where she won the Premiership Division coaches award and was also selected to play for the London All-Stars team against Great Britain.
During the following off-season, she played with the Sussex Swans in the European Championship League which allowed her to travel outside the UK, an experience Claudia says was a big honour.
“I have had some pretty amazing experiences in my football career, and I am so grateful for every one of them,” Claudia said.
Being involved in the game for so long has presented Claudia with numerous opportunities, especially with women’s football growing at such a high rate. However, for Claudia, having the opportunity to play for Australia in the ANZAC Cup will rank as one of her highest achievements.
“Having all these memories, playing in the ANZAC Cup would rank as one of my highest achievements as a footballer, and one of the greatest honours for my family given the history of my great grandfathers and their experiences in the war,” she said.
Her family has a strong connection and history with both wartime and the ANZAC’s. Two of her great grandfathers, Franc Prosen and Jozef Mikuletic, fought in World War Two in the Yugoslav army.
Her other great grandfather, William Alfred Henry Ellis, fought in World War One in Egypt as part of the 4thLight Horse Regiment. He began his duty there in March 1917 but was admitted to hospital in the same year with rheumatism and fibrositis. William arrived back in Melbourne in December 1917 and was discharged from service in April 1918.
While William was part of the ANZAC’s on WW1, Claudia’s great grandfathers who fought in WW2 had a very different role.
Both Franc and Jozef fought for the Yugoslav Army, which was also known as “The Yugoslav Partisans” or the National Liberation Army. Franc fought from 1941 to 1945 and survived, but Jozef was not so fortunate.
In 1941, Jozef, who was one of the Resistance Fighters, went missing and his body was never recovered. He was tragically killed in Croatia and is buried in a mass grave.
One of the ways Claudia wants to remember her great grandfathers by is being involved with the ANZAC commemorations, and she says this will be one memory that will stay with her for the rest of her life.
“It is on my bucket list to experience an ANZAC Day service in Turkey but having the opportunity to be involved at a place that holds such significance such as Villers Bretonneux in France is an honour,” Claudia said.
From playing football growing up in NSW, playing in London and now to playing for Australia in the ANZAC Cup, Claudia has an impressive list of footballing experience. This occasion though is more than that, it’s a chance to represent her family and she says it’s an opportunity that she is humbled to be part of.
Special thanks to the National Australia Bank for their continued support as Major Partner of the ANZAC Cup.