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Viney recharged for another Tigers finals assaultThursday, June 20, 2024 - 4:45 PM - by Chris Pike

SARAH Viney has already had quite the eventful 2024 on both sides of the world but now the tenacious premiership winning Claremont midfielder can't wait for another chance for more glory with the Tigers over the next three weeks.

Viney has played in the WAFLW competition for just the past two seasons having only first started playing football about five years ago firstly at the West Coast Amateur Football Club and then joining the Tigers ahead of the 2022 season.

She instantly fitted into the Claremont midfield with her ferocious attack on both the ball and the opposition becoming one of her great strengths, and one of the key attributes of the Tigers team she was part of.

That saw her play in the 2022 premiership and be part of the 2023 grand final, but then she took a different direction in life for six months by living in the ski fields of Canada which delayed her start to the 2024 WAFLW season.

However, the 28-year-old was back for the last four games of the home and away season with the Tigers, instantly fitted back in and played some impressive football, was a key part in the last three wins and now can't wait to take on East Fremantle in this Sunday's second semi-final.

Feeling heading into the finals

Viney has never played a WAFLW season without being part of a team that's not only played finals, but finished in the top two positions.

Her first WAFLW season saw her finish off with the premiership with the stunning Claremont win over the undefeated East Fremantle in the grand final.

The tide was turned last year with the Sharks beating the Tigers in the grand final, and now the two teams meet again in Sunday's second semi-final at Joondalup's Pentanet Stadium.

Viney is excited coming into another finals series and has no doubt the Tigers are ready to give it their best crack.

"I'm feeling pretty excited. This will be my third finals series for Claremont and we've been in a very similar position all three years, and I don't think it changes too much year to year that you go into it," Viney said.

"We had a bit of a lull there in the second half of the season but I feel like the team has really come together in particular over the last two weeks.

"We've had a few of our big leaders come back into the team and we've had a little bit more of that consistency so I'm feeling like we're in a really good position going into Sunday.

"I think we're all just really excited to play really good football and the win last week against East Perth just gave us that little bit of extra confidence going into the finals as well."

Remarkable rivalry with East Fremantle

One thing that hasn’t changed for Viney coming back late in the WAFLW season with Claremont after her delayed start is that the rivalry the Tigers have with East Fremantle remains as strong as ever.

Viney's first game back this season even happened to be against the Sharks and now the two teams have once again finished in the top two spots after playing in the last two grand finals – where they have split one premiership apiece.

While Viney embraces everything about that rivalry with the Sharks and can't wait for Sunday's second semi-final against them with a spot in the 2024 grand final on the line, she does feel the rest of the competition is closing the gap.

"We've definitely got a real rivalry with East Freo and i think that's a great thing for our competition to have a rivalry like that," Viney said.

"Because of that, there's a big respect that both teams have for each other, or at least I know how much we respect East Freo, and I know that when we come up against them we have to bring it and we have to do our homework, and have to be switched on from the get go.

"Because I've only been in WAFLW for a third year now, they have been a very big part of my experience at Claremont because of that rivalry.

"Just looking at the competition this year, though, I do feel like it's a lot more competitive and teams like West Perth, Swan Districts and even Subiaco aren’t too far away from us top teams now.

"I feel like the competition is a lot closer in general so although it us two again in the top two spots, I do feel that teams are able to compete with us and that's a good demonstration of how far women's footy is coming in Western Australia."

Delayed start to 2024 season

On the back of becoming such a key part of the Claremont team the past two years in sides that made back-to-back grand final appearances, Viney took a different approach to the 2024 season.

Given how full on life had become with full-time work, the commitments of football and also surf lifesaving, Viney just felt that there might never be a better chance to bite the bullet and experience something new.

That meant going to Canada for six months and while she knew there would be no guarantees of a path back into the Claremont WAFLW team when she returned especially as they racked up winning the first seven games, she did keep in shape and wouldn’t change anything about the experience.

"I actually did six months in Canada so I took a little bit of a break for myself from work and even from footy just to regenerate and going off to do something different," Viney said.

"I came back at the beginning of April and Claremont was very cautious about not wanting me to get injured coming back with too much of a load.

"The first game I was allowed to be up for selection was that last East Freo game about a month ago but it's obviously worked quite well because I've got through the last four games quite well.

"At the same time, when I was over in Canada I watched all the games and was talking to all the girls here, and then as soon as I got back spent a lot of time building myself back up and learning our different game plan this year.

"It was a bit of a different experience, but I sometimes think having that little bit of a break is a good thing and I've come back more refreshed than I normally would be at this time of the season, and I embraced that challenge of having to work back into the team."

Spending those six months in Canada

Giving up a summer in Perth for someone involved at a surf life saving club isn’t an easy thing, but easing that blow was that Viney got to live out a lifelong dream of having a white Christmas in Canada.

She spent another four months in Canada as well where she embraced everything about the lifestyle of living in the mountains and on the snow, even if she did end up falling down just as much as she would have on the football field had she stayed home for the start of the 2024 season.

"One of the main reasons was that I wanted to have a white Christmas and I wanted to just experience a different part of life," Viney said.

"So I spent most of the time on one of the ski fields over there and lived a very different lifestyle on the mountain to what I'm used to back home near the beach.

"It was still very active and I spent a lot of time crashing into snow instead of crashing on the football field, so there weren’t too many differences between me on the slopes versus me on the football field.

"I just wanted to experience a different culture and see a different lifestyle, and make some friends from different places around the world so it was a really awesome experience."

Work outside of football

As if playing in the WAFLW isn’t enough of a commitment, Viney's life is full on also a member of the City of Perth Surf Life Saving Club and she works full-time as an occupational therapist.

That is a focus on children either with disabilities or who are in the process of being diagnosed with certain disorders, or who just need some help and guidance, and she loves everything about helping them find ways to be fully functioning members of society.

"I'm an occupational therapist and I work in disability and paediatric sector. So I work with a lot of kids with autism spectrum disorders or attention hyperactivity disorder or who are in the process of getting that diagnosis along with emotional regulation and all those bits and pieces," she said.

"I love doing what I do for work and I find that it's great because some of my clients in the past have even gone into footy. There are a lot of young boys I'm working with at the moment who are loving playing Auskick and there's also some girls coming through starting to pick it up.

"It can be really good for those kids in particular that really need movement to be able to concentrate, and that was probably me when I was a little kid. So it's great that both the boys and girls are now able to have that opportunity because it links in with a passion of mine."

Viney has also found that a lot of her younger clients love knowing that their occupational therapist plays football at WAFLW level, and she loves their support with some of them having even come to watch her play on weekends.

"Even some of my clients know that I play football as well and they tend to get quite excited and some of them like to see what I'm doing and how I'm going in my games," Viney said.

"I don’t know if they quite understand the full complexities of it all, but they do think it's cool that their OT plays football.

"It's really nice to be able to show my interests in what I do with work as well as also being able to show my clients the sort of things that there's no reason they can't also do as they get older if they decide to pursue it as well."