A Self-Introduction – Artist, Athlete, Canadian: Kendra Heil

Painting of Sabrina Frederick-Traub: Acrylic on Panel

A little story about myself, and then I swear it’s just art from here on out:


My most recently completed artwork of the glorious Sabrina Frederick-Traub of the Brisbane Lions, is one of the many bold, oft-colourful, and inspired works I have completed over the last year.


It began in Canada, when I had finished playing varsity rugby and had completed my Fine Arts degree at the University of Guelph. My personal trainer at the time said,  “Come try this new sport, I’ll give you a couple of free sessions,” So I figured it couldn’t hurt to check it out. Very quickly I was immersed in my first training of a crazy, hectic sport they called Aussie Rules. I was selected for the Canadian National team, and made my way down under for the 2014 International Cup.


It was a good time in my life to travel, so I decided to come over for the season leading up to IC14. I joined the Eastern Devils in Mulgrave and played two seasons for them. Due to my lack of game knowledge and my high level of fitness, they decided tagger was the best position to start – I ran alongside the likes of Daisy Pearce and Stephanie Chiocci in what was a rude awakening to how little I really knew. The Devils became my home away from home, helped push me to compete at a higher level, and supported me in what was a difficult transition in a completely different country.


Everything was looking up as my kicks started going straight instead of helicoptering sideways, and my positioning improved from dismal to less-than-dismal. I was selected to be a part of the first Women’s Academy; the participation in such a program skyrockets your skills and knowledge to get the best out of your natural and acquired talents. Unfortunately I ruptured my left ACL (knee tendon that creates stability) in January of 2016 and had surgery in February. My partner and I opted to have surgery as soon as possible and I spent most of 2016 focusing on rehab, helping the Devils, and not much else.


Fast forward to the 2016 AFLW draft. I wasn’t selected in the initial draft, but was thrilled when Collingwood offered me a spot as a free agent as their doctors confirmed I would be ready to go come round 1. Unfortunately at training I re-ruptured my ACL in an innocuous turn and my world crumbled around me again. Surgery was booked in for December and another year of rehab reared its ugly head.


My partner encouraged me to take up painting more seriously (I had been dabbling over the last couple years, but most were reproductions) during my rehab, and I also decided it would be a great opportunity to buff up on the parts of AFL that weren’t my strengths. I coached, was bench manager, sat in coaches boxes; anything to get a taste. The paintings were my saving grace…I found a way to become the action of game day that was unlike anything anyone else had. The stroke of a brush, the pull of the paint, the pride of a completed work brought light and colour to athletes that most had not experienced before. Immortalised.


Now… nearly 16 months into my second rehab (tack on another 10 months in the previous one) and I haven’t played footy in over two years. I have signed with the mighty Essendon Bombers up at Tullamarine in the VFLW, and I plan on experiencing footy again from the other end of the brush…in the action, on the oval, and kicking goals.


Kendra Heil

For more of my artwork, visit www.kendraheil.com



  1. As someone who’s a big fan of people from outside of Australia giving our game a red hot go, this was super to read, Kendra. Loved that painting of SFT as soon as I saw it a while back, so emotive.

    Best of luck with the Bombers!

  2. Kasey Symons says

    Great to learn about your connection to the game Kendra though I’m sorry it’s been a painful time with your injuries. I’m looking forward to seeing you take the game on in the VFLW this year as well as more of your amazing artwork! What a talent you are!

  3. E.regnans says

    Welcome K Heil.
    That’s a mighty story.
    What a life this is.
    Your twists and turns, hopes and dreams, decisions and motivations…
    And now here you are, sharing.

    All the best with your body’s recovery.
    And all the best with your mind’s escape.

    Hope to see & read more.
    Magnificent painting.

  4. Terrific story of perseverance, Kendra. And the painting is superb. Hope you can get back on the track in full flight.

  5. Wow! Love the drama and intensity in your paintings, Kendra. And the Home Page motto of healing our wounds by exposing them is brilliant. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
    More power to your arm. And hand. And brush.

  6. Yvette Wroby says

    Beautiful work Kendra. Keep writing, painting and playing footy. Hope to meet you soon at an Almanac function. So glad you have become a contributor. Love Sabrina and you have captured her power and beauty.

  7. Richard Naco says

    Great painting, even better story, even better again story line.

    And good luck getting back on the park (even with the Pies – O Lord, I actually said that!!!).

Leave a Comment