Journalist Eliza Reilly and the Melbourne Demons have one thing in common: they have both defied the odds of winning a premiership in recent years.
Reilly won her flag with the fledgling Bull Sharks in the 2017 QWFA Division 1 competition, and she was in the media box at Optus Stadium last September when the Demons ended their 57-year drought as premier of the AFL.
It was a ‘pinch moment’ for Reilly who will never forget to recount the jubilant scenes in the Melbourne locker room after the grand final.
“It was a really special day. I never thought Perth would get the chance to be the center of the AFL universe, but COVID had other plans,” she said.
“The buildup was huge and the whole town was swept up in finals fever, embracing the demons and dogs as if they were our own. The game itself was a cracker.
Her “dream job” as an AFL reporter might never have existed for Reilly had she pursued an overseas opportunity after graduating from Bond with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
Reilly was selected from hundreds of applicants around the world to undertake an internship with AFL Europe in the area of digital content.
Instead, she took a job with the Gold Coast Bulletin as a sports reporter where she gained experience covering local and national events.
“I was able to report on the Gold Coast Suns’ inaugural AFLW season and saving surfing lives has become a big passion of mine,” she said.
“I never thought I would fall for something like this. I won a Clarion Journalism Award for my reporting on surfer rescue.”
But as restrictions tightened during the pandemic, she began to feel homesick for her hometown of Perth.
Her mother encouraged her to approach the Western Australian newspaper.
“I said, ‘mum don’t be stupid, nothing will come of it, you can’t just email the West Australian sportswriter,’ she laughed.
She eventually succumbed and the correspondence resulted in a new job being created just for her.
“They really wanted a woman to write about football in Perth, so that’s what I fell into,” she said.
“It was a bit overwhelming at first to go from a smaller-scale regional newsroom to a full-fledged metropolitan newsroom, so there were a few learnings that I needed to have.
“There are quite a few female sports reporters here now, so we’ve become a gang because we all know some of the unique challenges we face – not that there’s sexism or anything like that.”
Reilly will be among hundreds of industry professionals at the Women in Media conference at Bond University tomorrow and Saturday.
During her two years at Bond, she was part of the student reporting team that covered the event.
One of the highlights was interviewing Channel 10 newsreader Narelda Jacobs, who was a presenter in Perth when Reilly was growing up.