I can proudly say that my maternal family roots lie in the heart of Port Adelaide. I come from a big extended family of Port supporters and members going back four generations.
My intense determination, work ethic, resilience and courage are as hard as they come, because it's in my blood - it's the Port Adelaide Football Club culture and ethos in me, which is the most defining part of my character. These traits have always been very visible in my level of effort, actions and decisions throughout life. They have also been crucial to my survival and achievements.
When my maternal grandmother chose me as the person she wanted to personally bequeath her "personal footprint" to, which represents her identity, strength, passion, purpose and her desire to win in life all intricately interwoven with her Port Adelaide Football Club memorabilia, family artefacts, historic PAFC newspaper clippings and family literature about this mighty club, she intuitively knew that one day I would come to a crossroad and wonder where my POWER came from: my spirit, courage, fight, grit and unrelenting determination and resilience as a person to survive and thrive beyond just about anything.
I was only 11 at the time, and it was a day I remember vividly. She said to me clearly and calmly, "If anything happens to me, I want you to have all this." She opened a drawer and took out a small chest that had belonged to her father, which contained historic newspaper clippings of the Port Adelaide Football Club's success: premierships, players, wins at the club, family poems and stories about this mighty club. She also took out a small tray containing all her membership badges over the years, and a large black and white book marking the 100th anniversary of the Port Adelaide Football Club - 1870 - 1970 for me to have. She then showed me her collection of Shell Winter Mix cards, containing all the 1950s players with their names on the back that she and her parents used to collect.
Initially, my eyes lit up at the sight of all this 'treasure' and I felt a rush of excitement and importance at the thought she she was giving all this to me... but then I felt an unexpected wave of dread and confusion creep over me upon her suggestion that 'something might happen to her'. 'What's that supposed to mean, anyway?' was the thought that sprung to my mind in that conflicted moment as my eleven-year-old self. It was one of those best day-worst day moments in my life that I've never forgotten.
Given that moment remains so crystal clear in my memory, I can observe and understand her body language in that moment: her facial expression, words, and the strength and grace she demonstrated despite knowing that she wasn't going to live for much longer and carrying that knowledge solely on her shoulders at that moment in time, given no one else knew it yet... except deep down, maybe me.
She was very sure and determined that these meaningful and sentimental items would be mine. She made extra effort to show and reinforce to me exactly how and where to find these items in her chest of drawers as though she wouldn't be there to get them for me, and reiterated that they are mine to have and that I am to take them. It was an instruction - not a suggestion.
I now understand after all these years that it was her way of telling me before my time and before I was ready, and before any of us knew that she was dying, that she knew who I was and who I'd grow to be.
She didn't want to leave us, or give up those meaningful items that reflected her life, strength, passion, purpose and family, because those things were her and she wasn't going give up without a fight. She fought hard with all her might till the end.
In her mind, her Port Adelaide collection would remain with her until she was gone, and then I would become the rightful custodian because she saw herself in me. I believe she took comfort and hope in the idea that she would survive as part of me, in a modern and advanced world where far more rights, opportunities and freedoms existed for women that weren't available for her in her era; the fact of which was the very source of her challenges and struggle.
She knew without a doubt, given my courage, determination and fight, that she too possessed, that I would take full advantage of those freedoms and would overcome anything that came my way. Seeing those traits, and seeing more equality for women rapidly evolving, she knew there were no limits to what I could become and what I could do and I'm positive that she wanted to be right there with me and part of that, experiencing it too - and in the time leading up to her death, feeling some hope and comfort that her life wasn't ending; it was only beginning.
Being the strong, wise and intuitive woman she was, of course she knew that one day I would understand why she bequeathed to me her personal "footprint" on this world that day but that I would have to go on the journey to find out for myself. It's taken some time for me to realise and connect the dots, even though it's been right under my nose the whole time.
Extreme challenges including widespread, unjust and misguided resistance and hateful treatment in different settings by large numbers of people which included being ostracised and scapegoated, once had me questioning myself and all the positive qualities and traits that I was once celebrated for: the very traits that my grandmother and father, the latter being a well known and respected business owner, property developer, company CEO and passionate Port supporter, were immensely proud of and possessed themselves.
Despite this senseless and unjust treatment and the hurt and confusion I experienced as a result, together with the identity crisis this presented, my response and actions to these situations, which was sourced from very deeply rooted and unwavering belief in myself at my core, even in the most impossible circumstances, inevitably proved that I was my grandmother's grand daughter and that not only would I survive it, but I would thrive far beyond it and become so strong and resilient that I'd be untouchable.
Despite it all, I never gave up believing in myself, because deep down (and believe me, I had to really dig deep), I knew that my Dad and my Grandmother, who both wholeheartedly embraced the winning Port Adelaide Way in their hearts and souls, had enormous belief in me, even though they both left this world early. I figured that if they believed in me that much, I did too. I wasn't going to let them - or myself - down. They were and continue to be with me all the way; wholeheartedly in spirit, cheering me on from the sidelines, while so many others have done the contrary.
Despite it all, I also knew that I couldn't let others down, no matter how lost and misguided they were. I had to survive. I had to rise. I had to lead. That was my job. That was my predetermined destiny.
Despite how difficult that's been, doing so has introduced me to a unique type of freedom. I live life on my own terms and don't care what others think. How many people can truly ever feel that way? My strength has also meant that I have been able to help those who now regret that they were the reason for my own heartache, by masterminding massive wins for them that have changed the course of their lives, and led to collective strength and unity, which is something that both my grandmother and father always believed in, and as leaders, fostered when they were alive.
I've learned from every experience - good or bad - and use those learnings to WIN and help others WIN. I'm courageous, strong, driven and resilient, just like my grandmother. I'm ambitious, hardworking, compassionate and uncomplicated, just like my father. And I look exactly like my mother (there's no mistaking that) who also passed on to me - just like my dad did - her love for life and desire and spirit for fun, travel and happiness. Before it even enters your head, no... I'm not "up myself". It's just the facts. Take it or leave it, it's who I am and I'm not going to change. I might not have mentioned it, but I'm also stubbornly defiant.
Just like it was for my grandmother, my father and the Port Adelaide Football Club, mediocrity and I can't co-exist. We can either die or FLY but we ALWAYS choose the latter because we always choose to WIN. No matter what happens in life, no matter how severe, extreme or unrelenting, I always prevail, just like my grandmother and just like the club that she and her parents and grandparents supported and celebrated as their source of strength, purpose, inspiration and family.