Leah’s long love affair with footy

As a kid growing up on her family farm at Long Plains, Leah Tynan fell in love with football.

She just never thought she’d be allowed to play it.

“I played tennis and netball,” she said. “I didn’t even think about playing football. It wasn’t an option for a girl.

“But I loved it so much. So I’d take a football to school with me every single day. That’s what I became known for there!”

Tynan’s excellent football adventure might have started quietly but it peaked in celebratory fashion at the weekend, when the North Adelaide co-captain became one of two women – along with Norwood’s Leah Cutting – to be the first to play 50 matches in the SANFL women’s competition.

Tynan’s Roosters ensured she’d also celebrate victory, taking care of Woodville-West Torrens by 25 points.

“It takes a long time to get to 50 games in women’s football but I’m very pleased,” she said.

“It’s pretty cool. And to achieve it with my team-mates and my parents and partner, Andrew, in the crowd was a big thrill.”

To put her achievement into perspective, there were only six rounds played in the first season of the SANFLW and that has grown to 11 rounds in 2021. She’s only missed one match in five seasons – and that was because she was rested. A 50-game milestone is considered the equivalent of at least 100 games in men’s competition.

In a neat coincidence, 2020 Magarey Medallist and former Crystal Brook star, Campbell Combe, also notched his 50-game milestone for North Adelaide men at the weekend.

Tynan, 29, now lives at Thompson Beach, near Dublin, and teaches at the same Mallala Primary School she took her football to, all those years ago.

It wasn’t until year 12 at Balaklava High School that Tynan finally found a way into competitive football. A group of friends formed a team and she was told of a small women’s competition in Adelaide. Then her PE teacher Liam Whitwell – now Mallala coach in the Adelaide Plains Football League – pointed her in the direction of an Under 21 football academy in Adelaide.

“She was a beautiful kick,” Whitwell remembers. “If anyone was going to succeed it was her. Unfortunately, she was just years ahead of her time. If she’d been growing up now, she would have been drafted by an AFL club. She’s a credit to herself and the Adelaide Plains.”

Tynan would go on to play 141 matches for Greenacres in the SAWFL to complement her career with the Roosters, who she co-captained to last season’s premiership.

“That was a big thrill,” she said. “That’s the highest honour I’ll ever get.”

She’s excited about the future of women’s football.

“There are a lot of athletes, rather than pure footballers, playing women’s football at the moment,” she said.

“They haven’t been brought up with those football skills from a young age, they’ve crossed over from other codes.

“To see all the young girls running around playing football now is so exciting. We’ve seen how the skills of women’s football have improved in just a few years. I can’t wait to see how good it is in 10-15 years’ time when all those young girls start coming through.”

Tynan intends to keep playing for North Adelaide for as long as she’s enjoying it and her body allows her. So she’ll keep making that long commute to the city, driven by her passion for the game she’s loved all her life.

“The driving to Adelaide for training and matches definitely hasn’t been the favourite part of my footy career,” she laughed.

“But I love where I grew up, I love where I live and I love playing for North Adelaide. So, I wouldn’t change anything.”