AFL Queensland legend Emma Zielke returned to the Bundaberg Region this weekend to meet some of the local up-and-coming sport stars and fans.
Touching down on Saturday, Emma was greeted by Bundaberg Region Mayor Jack Dempsey, who congratulated her on her sporting career and presented her with the accolade of being named honorary Mayor for the day.
As a young girl growing up in Bundaberg, attending East Bundaberg State School and Kepnock State High School, Emma’s dream was to one day play soccer for Australia but it was by chance that she switched codes to AFL in her late teens and her career skyrocketed.
“I had just moved to Brissy and after playing a year of soccer there, I wanted to freshen it up and change sport and I lived with my best mate who was a mad AFL fan and she said I should try AFL and that was it – I never looked back,” Emma said.
“As a kid I had no idea about AFL and I didn’t really like it as I didn’t know the rules, so it was hard to follow.
“The soccer I played here as a girl definitely helped; it helped me read the sport and it was easy to transfer over, so that’s what I would be saying to all the young ones – if they’ve started in a different sport, like soccer, they can still transfer over as the skills transfer across.”
After playing her first game in Brisbane in 2008, Emma became the inaugural Brisbane Lions AFLW Captain in 2017 and then went on to be the first ever NAB AFLW Premiership Captain in 2021.
Now returning to home soil Emma said it was an honour to have the role as honorary Mayor for the day, and she thanked the community for the ongoing support.
“I grew up here but I never thought I would see the day,” she laughed.
“It’s pretty exciting and very special to me and my family.”
Mayor Dempsey welcomed Emma home, thanking her for the contribution to sport and her representation of the Bundaberg Region community on a national stage.
“It is fantastic having Emma here, she is such an inspiration for future generations,” Mayor Dempsey said.
“It’s symbolic of high achievement but also the discipline and sacrifice of what she has had to do to get to where she is.”
“Being Mayor for the day is a small token to what has been an amazing achievement by Emma and the whole of the Brisbane Lions team.”
While in Bundaberg Emma met with sporting enthusiasts including young female AFL players in a meet and greet event hosted by AFL Wide Bay at Takalvans today.
The event was aimed at getting the community together to talk about the growing pathways of women's sport in the region with the opportunity to meet the home-grown star.