Jacinda Barclay has gone a long way from the Australian bush to become an international sports figure. She grew up in Chidlow, Western Australia with about 1,700 other locals. Since leaving home she has traveled around the world with the Australia women’s national baseball team and played in the Legends Football League both in Australia and the U.S. Next step? The Australian Football League.
“Yes, I am a country girl”, Jacinda Barclay told basebalEBM, laughing. “Where I come from there were not that many options for girls like me. I love sport and, because there were so few girls, I played Aussie football and baseball with the boys. My brother was my biggest competitor. I really needed to push myself hard to be able to compete with him and the other guys.”
Playing with the boys developed Jacinda’s strength and skills. She had a strong junior career in both sports but committed to baseball. She debuted with the Emeralds, Australia’s national team, at the 2008 World Cup when she was just 17 years old. Thanks to a strong arm and her leadership qualities, pitching was a natural position for her. Jacinda made a name for herself as a big game starting pitcher. Her biggest victory came in the semi-final game against Venezuela at the 2010 World Cup.
After the 2012 World Cup, which was held in Canada, Barclay stayed in North America to pursue a spot on the Legends Football League (LFL) team, the Chicago Bliss. Due to working visa restrictions Jacinda was unable to play in the 2012 LFL season and moved back to Australia. When LFL Australia kicked off their inaugural season in 2013, Barclay joined the New South Wales Surge. Her strong arm, and the leadership skills she developed on the baseball field, make her a natural at the quarterback position. In the 2014 LFL Australia season she was selected as the offensive player of the year.
The Legends Football League plays American rules football. The league, which was previously called the Lingerie Football League, changed their name in 2013, the same year Jacinda signed on to play. “I have friends that found it hard to accept me playing in the league. I understand that. It is entertainment and business for the owner, but there is lot of athleticism as well. If the league would treat the players better there would be even better athletes.”
This past summer Barclay returned to Chicago and joined the Bliss. “It was quite an experience. I learned the game, the American way of life and had a chance to play professionally”, Barclay said. The season finished with the Bliss winning the championship.
Barclay has visited Europe several times and she is really interested in European baseball. She is happy that team Netherlands did so well in the 2016 Women’s World Cup where Barclay played with Australia’s national team once more. “It is awesome that baseball gains new ground and that more and more, women can play the game.
At the moment Jacinda is preparing for the inaugural season for the Women’s Australian Football League (AFL). The AFL plays Australian rules football, making Barclay a three-sport professional athlete. She signed with the GWS Giants in October. Eight teams will play eight weeks throughout February and March. All the players in the league are professionals and, as such, Barclay works hard to be in shape for the season. “I wake at 5:30 every morning and train 8-10 times a week. I am under contract with the Giants so, I need to perform like a pro.”
Barclay thinks the AFL is a great opportunity for female athletes to show that they can play a game that has, until recently, only been played on the professional level by men. She also believes that comparison to men is unfair, “This is our first season and we are just starting so, we can only develop our game. Overall the feedback has been very positive. I believe Australians are curious to see Aussie football played by female athletes.” Due to the upcoming AFL season, Barclay does not have much time for baseball because seasons collide. “Baseball is my heart but, for now, my focus is in the AFL because it is work where I get paid.”
Even though Jacinda Barclay is only 26-years old, and her career as a professional athlete may continue for many years, she is already thinking about the future, “I am going to start a business of my own. I can’t say much about it yet but it will be related to female sport and empowering girls and women.”
Looking at what Jacinda has already accomplished, there is no doubt that we are going to hear a lot more from her in the years to come.