Family Pride: Sophie Conway’s Pack

As I make my way to the Brisbane rooms preparing myself for post-match interviews, I wonder who I will ask to speak to from the victorious Lions outfit who are about to defeat the Blues on the road.


My choices are seemingly endless considering the talent on this list. Should I interview powerhouse player Sabrina Frederick-Traub or maybe the courageous captain Zielke? The dynamic Kaitlyn Ashmore or should I just ask Nat Exon for some style tips?


I am nearly at the Lions’ race, still trying to make up my mind, as Sophie Conway kicks her second goal that will clinch the game when I am accosted by and overly excited man in a Brisbane polo shirt.


He bear hugs me and lifts me from the ground in an explosive moment of excitement.


‘That’s my daughter! That’s my daughter!’ He beams and cheers boisterously as she bolts to the bench for a breather. I watch him watching her. His eyes wet, his smile quivering, trying to hold himself together. The proudest of papas.


I introduce myself and John Conway kindly speaks to me, as the final siren sounds, about his exceptionally talented daughter and his family, with a raw honesty and humble passion that brings a tear to my eye.


You may or may not be aware of the tragedy that fell upon the Conway family in June 2017. John had to say goodbye to his beloved wife Christine after a four-year battle with breast and brain cancer and Sophie, with her brothers, Isaac (who plays in the VFL for Port Melbourne) and Ben, had to say goodbye to their biggest fan, their loving mum.


‘This is very special.’ John says as he applauds the Lions who are hugging and high-fiving each other on the ground. He gestures over to his boys whose eyes are proudly on Sophie.


‘We keep strong together as a unit and we do it for Chrissy. We do it for Christine who built herself on family values. There’s not a day that goes by that one of us won’t think of her.’


Casting his eye towards his daughter who excitedly makes her way to the huddle in the middle of the ground to sing the song, he also expresses his delight in the recent progress of women’s sport, acknowledging the pathways that are now available for Sophie and so many other young women.


‘This is an opportunity not just for women’s football, but for women’s sport across the board, everywhere. I love how women’s sport has just grown in the last few years. Sophie has played hockey all her life. She has represented Queensland through hockey right to the end and she now she has an opportunity to come into AFL, which is great because she always loved it. Ever since she was the one who had to fetch the ball and kick it back to her brothers!’


And now she’s out there on Princes Park bagging two goals to bring down the side that went into Round 3 of the AFLW Season on top of the ladder.


I spoke to Sophie in the rooms after the game. I told her that her father gives the best bear hugs going around and she laughed knowingly, she knows what her success means to him after everything her family has been through.


‘Obviously I’ve had a pretty tough year, well last year was a pretty tough year, I had my mum pass away and in the first six months of 2017, I was just by her side while she was sick.’


While the tragedy of Christine’s death was a huge impact on her and her family, Sophie continued to work towards her AFLW dreams with the support of her father and brothers.


‘A lot of things did fall in place for me after mum passed away. I was then named in the All-Australian under 18’s squad and was drafted to the Brisbane Lions (at pick 44) and debuted, unfortunately Mum didn’t see a lot of it but she’s been a big inspiration for me. She gave up a lot of her life for my sporting career so it means a lot. It’s a really good feeling to go out there and kick a couple of goals for her and to have both my brothers in the grand stand and my dad – they’re so supportive of me, they love everything I do. I can hear them from the field but I try to block it out because yeah, they’re very vocal!


But they’re just stoked for me and they’re really happy just to see what I’m doing and how good I’ve been going.’


Seeing that support first hand in the outer while standing with John, Isaac and Ben as they watched their Sophie succeed certainly demonstrated a palpable bond. It was a beautiful experience to see how this family was there for each other in so many more ways than just cheering in the stands.


However, Conway is a professional and while she works hard on the field to make her family proud and honour her late mother, she has a role to play for her team which she is 100% focussed on.


Tonight’s game was a tussle and lead to a low-scoring, defensive first half with the Lion’s sole goal via Kaitlyn Ashmore the only major score.


‘Yeah obviously the first half was very pressured but we’d done the work throughout the preseason (for that) so it was good to bounce away from them in the second half and we just wanted to go into the game without falling away in the second quarter because that really hurt us against the Bulldogs last week.’


‘We wanted to play four quarters and not three quarters or not have a lapse in any of our quarters so it was really good we just wanted to have a focus in all of our quarters.


And we hung in there and then slipped away with a few goals and that was a really good feeling.’


They managed to slip into that handy lead with not one but two goals from Conway in the final quarter who sealed the deal for the Lions.


‘Craig just said to me, “hang in there and things will pan out your way” and I just went out their and played my role and it was really good to kick one goal but to kick another goal was a really good feeling because it just felt like yeah, we’ve nipped it in the bud here.’


The Lions will now look forward to next week when they take on Fremantle at home.


‘We’ll let this one sink in but we’ll move on and go into training next week and the game review and focus on some things going into our next game at home. I think making sure that we still stay alive for all four quarters will be a big focus because in AFLW, you just can’t let a quarter slip because it just costs you. We’ll just focus on playing our game, our style and using the weapons that each individual on our team has.’


For Conway, having John, Isaac and Ben, her own personal pride of lions behind her, will be an invaluable weapon propelling her forward as she makes her mark on this competition.




CARLTON                  0.0     0.2     1.3     2.6 (18)
BRISBANE                 0.1     1.2     3.2     6.4 (40)


Carlton: Gay, Vescio
Brisbane: Conway 2, Ashmore, Wuetschner, Gibson, Exon 


Carlton:  Moody, Gay, Harrington, J.Hosking, Loynes, Audley
Brisbane: McCarthy, Wuetschner, Frederick-Traub, Stanton, Exon, Conway 


Carlton:  Gee (concussion), Brazzale (shoulder)
Brisbane: Hildebrand (corked thigh) 


Umpires:  Rowe, Dore, McGinness

Official crowd: 6,200

About Kasey Symons

Kasey Symons a writer and PhD Candidate at Victoria University. Her research is focused on gendered issues in sports cultures (primarily AFL) at a fan level. Kasey is a born and raised Victorian who barracks for the West Coast Eagles and yes, she knows that is weird.


  1. Hi Kasey,

    Thanks for sharing the touchable story here.

    Christine would have smiled in heaven seeing Sophie kicking two goals. They would have been gifts for Christine who gave up things for Sophie’s sport career.

    You were at the right place at right time, weren’t you?

    I keep her spirits in my mind and bring to upcoming footy training that I am going soon.



  2. Yvette Wroby says

    Beautiful work Kasey. Brilliant and moving

  3. Thanks Kasey, this is wonderful.

  4. DanielleSpicer says

    Great article. Conway has a touching story, and is rapidly emerging as an amazing talent. Thank you Kasey!

  5. Des Warnock says

    Thanks Kasey for the great subject matter! A refreshing article from the normal cliches
    More please

  6. John Conway says

    Many thanks Kasey, sorry for the bear hug. It’s all about timing, the article was amazing and all my extended family and friends thoroughly enjoyed.
    To have Sophie receive a nomination for Rising Star even more exciting.


  7. Kasey Symons says

    Thanks for the kind words John, I’m glad you liked the piece and your bear hug made my night. It was wonderful to share that moment with you and see the impact Sophie’s success has had on your family, you’re all such wonderful people.

    I’m so glad she got the nomination this week, she 100% deserved it and I think it is just the start of an incredible journey she has ahead of her in footy.

    All the best,

  8. bring back the torp says

    Wonderful, moving account, Kasey. I would like to hear more info. on the back-story of many of the AFLW players.

    Until 2017, Qld. had more regd. female AF players than Vic! As RL is the main sport in Qld., how can this be? Female AF is very strong in Qld. schools.
    It would be valuable if an analysis could be done explaining this phenomenon -the lessons learn’t may assist in maximising GR female AF growth further throughout all Aust.

  9. This is really beautiful, Kasey.
    So many of these players have amazing, emotional, heart-wrenching back-stories that just make their performances all the more impressive.

  10. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Angels do wonders on footy fields.
    I love the thought of Sophie growing from being the one who got the ball for her brothers to the one kicking centre stage. Thanks.

  11. Hats off Sophie.
    Hats off John.
    Hats off K Symons.
    Love it.

  12. Kasey Symons says

    Thanks for all the kind words everyone, this was one of the most rewarding interview experiences I have ever had.

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