AFL Queensland has released an inspiring video sharing the reaction of Bundaberg’s Emma Zielke to news the QAFLW Best and Fairest Award would be named in her honour.
The name of Bundaberg’s Emma Zielke will be forever etched into the state’s football history with the naming of the QAFLW Best and Fairest Award as the Emma Zielke Medal.
Before the honour was announced her name had already become synonymous with women’s football in Queensland thanks to a long and unrivalled list of achievements.
The inaugural Brisbane Lions AFLW Captain in 2017, went on to be the first ever NAB AFLW Premiership Captain in 2021.
Emma was born and raised in Bundaberg. She grew up a passionate Brisbane Broncos fan and played soccer from the age of 6.
She first played Australian rules in 2008 at the age of 19 in Brisbane.
Emma also has a rich history playing Queensland women’s state league football and said she was honoured to have the medal named after herself and family.
“It’s so special to me having been involved in women’s footy in Queensland for so long, I’ve been playing for 15/16 years now,” she said.
“It’s surreal, I know the night I attend this year and they call it out I’ll probably be a little bit in shock to be honest.
“It’s going to be special to hear that every year someone’s name, the best and fairest player of the league, is going to be holding that (Emma Zielke) medal and I’m really thankful AFLQ even put my name forward.”
Emma has been a pioneer of women’s football ever since she arrived in Brisbane from her hometown of Bundaberg as a 19-year-old.
It was in 2007 at Morningside when she first picked up a Sherrin and fell in love with the game.
In 2013, she put a call out on Facebook to establish a women’s team at Coorparoo – captaining the inaugural side, she’d go on to kick a goal after the siren and win the SEQAFL – Women’s League Premiership.
In 2014 and 2015, under the new QWAFL competition, she was at the helm of the Kings and led the team to two further consecutive Premierships, while also being awarded the league's best and fairest in both years.
Come 2019, Emma claimed her fourth state league Premiership – winning the QAFLW in a landslide victory over Bond University.
“It’s been a huge journey; from the time I went down for my first session at Morningside to now.
“I Iook at what the competition was when I first started, to where it is now, and I am so proud of how far it’s come and the role I’ve played in that.
“It’s an even competition now with quality players in every team, great coaches, and it’s professionalism with the live stream and commentators, makes it one of the best women’s leagues in Australia.”
A sentiment echoed by Head of AFL Queensland Trisha Squires who said with the QAFLW competition evolving to become one of the strongest and most competitive women’s state league competitions in the country, now was the right time to strike a medal in honour of someone.
“On behalf of AFL Queensland, congratulations to Emma on the naming of the Emma Zielke Medal,” she said.
“I am thrilled AFL Queensland is bestowing this honour onto her – the naming of this medal brings such prestige, and I don’t think there is any person more fitting than Emma to have the medal named after.
“Four state league flags, two best and fairest awards and now she’ll have a place in the competition forever.
“With more than 42 per cent of all football participants in Queensland female, I have no doubt the growth has been spurred on by our premier state league women’s competition alongside our two AFLW Queensland teams, both of which Emma has played such crucial leadership roles in.”
2019 QAFLW Best and Fairest award winner Emily Bates, who’s also Emma’s partner and Brisbane Lions teammate, said the namesake of the QAFLW Medal was a fitting testament to her leadership on and off the field.
“I am so proud of Emma; she’s done so much for Queensland football and she’s always been a massive leader,” Emily said.
“She’s always been someone I have looked up too, she’s someone that’s had a huge knowledge of the game, and she’s been able to create really good team culture in every team she’s been part of.
“I know she’s created an incredible legacy at Coorparoo. At the Brisbane Lions, she’s been our leader for five seasons, our Premiership Captain and she is one of the most inspiring leaders you could have so I am really glad that’s got this nod.”
Now with her boots hung up, Zielke reflects on the indescribable moment winning the NAB AFLW Premiership on April 17, 2021 and says it’s a memory she’ll cherish forever.
“You don’t just win flags from one day or from one game, our Premiership was the result of five years of hard work, commitment and sacrifices that a lot of us made, coaching staff included,” she said.
“For it to all come together and end like that it was amazing to be surrounded by the people that had all been a part of it from day one especially, and it goes down in history as a fairy-tale finish for me.”
The Emma Zielke Medal will be presented on September 12, 2021, alongside the J.A Grogan Medal.