Contributed by: Troy Thompson Wednesday, June 16 2021 @ 03:36 pm ACST
“We thank Dani for her dedication and contributions to the Club over the past two seasons“ Bulldogs’ General Manager of Women’s Football Debbie Lee said. “Dani was the first American AFLW player in the league which was ground-breaking.
Marshall 29, has a good leap, but at 168cm she would be one of the shortest required regularly to take the ruck duties and this has given her little opportunity to lock down a position.
Marshall has until the 25th of June to find another AFLW team or go into the draft on July 27th.
Since the end of the 2021 AFLW season where the Western Bulldogs finished eighth, Marshall has played with the Western Bulldogs VFLW team (6 matches for 5 goals) but with a limit to the number of AFLW players that can be part of that team and Covid-19 delays, Marshall has not had a consistent opportunity to showcase her ability and has not played since May 23rd.
Harking back to her US sporting roots, Marshall has been able to stay competitive among the VFLW limitations with the Essendon Royals in Women’s State League soccer alongside Akec Makur Chuot who is in a similar position having been delisted from her AFLW team by Richmond.
Marshall who was the first AFLW player to learn Aussie rules in the US with USAFL club the Arizona Hawks, relocated to Melbourne with husband Ryan in 2019 after coming to Australia and trialling with a number of clubs at local and VFLW, and AFLW level before the Western Bulldogs signed her to a VFLW and then AFLW contract.
Image Right Source: David Wooley AFANA
Another departing the Bulldog's list this week was Lauren Spark. Spark was a pioneer for women’s footy in London where she played for two years with the Wimbledon Hawks in the AFL London women’s competition.
Spark was a star for the Hawks contributing to Wimbledon’s undefeated run in 2016 and topped it off with a best on ground grand final performance in Wimbledon’s first premiership prior to being drafted to the Bulldogs in 2016. She maintained her UK connections and was the assistant coach for the Great Britain Swans at the 2017 International Cup
Bulldogs’ General Manager of Women’s Football Debbie Lee thanked Spark for her service to the red, white and blue, and said she will be missed by all those at the Club.
“’Sparky’ was a founding member of our inaugural AFLW team and has made a significant contribution to the Club over the past five years,” Lee said.
“’Sparky’ took on the role down back as the general, providing a lot of support and guidance with her backline craft to many of our players.
“Whilst coming to the game late, she is one of the very few players who transitioned from VWFL to the AFLW – her ability to read the play and shut down many key forwards in the competition was a major feature of her game.
“We thank ‘Sparky’ for her investment, time and commitment, and wish her all the very best with her future endeavours.”
The foundation AFLW Bulldog arrived at the Kennel from Melbourne University in the Victorian Women’s Football League, taken with pick 76 in the 2016 AFLW Draft.
She played 28 games in the red, white and blue over five years, before an ankle injury put an early end to her 2021 campaign.
Spark said the decision to retire was a tough call, but she knew it was time.
“I got to the game late – I took it up around age 27 after beach volleyball – but managed to get involved in those two exhibition games with the Bulldogs initially, and then the competition was brought forward which I’m always thankful for,” Spark said.
“When I first started there were definitely a handful of girls that were AFLW worthy, but they just missed out on the timing of it all. We thank them and we do it for them basically.
“I’ve squeezed every little bit of juice out.
Above: Lauren Spark speaks to potential AFLW recruites during the first Australian CrossCoders camp.