By Nicholas Galea
Born to parents from England and Nepal, Hanna Fosbrooke has probably one of the more unique backgrounds in local footy. Raised in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, Fosbrooke has spent much of her life around Coburg and Thornbury and grew up as a very talented athlete who had a huge interest in a number of sports like football, cricket, soccer, basketball, netball and karate.
Growing up, Fosbrooke described herself as somewhat of a tomboy and someone who didn’t necessarily hang around the girls a lot at Kindergarten.
‘I don’t know why but I got along better with the boys, I guess they were doing more fun things that I enjoyed like playing with cars, playing sports and running around,’ she said.
A supporter of the Collingwood Football Club, Fosbrooke’s first interaction with Aussie Rules as a child was watching her younger brother Ben play AusKick with his friends. Immediately drawn to the game, she asked her father if she could have a go at it the following week, which he agreed to.
Following AusKick, Fosbrooke’s father found out about the Youth Girls competition which would give her a pathway to be able to play football on a recreational level and improve her game, where she represented Essendon as a 11-year-old, playing alongside more senior teammates.
‘I got my first ever medal which was for best on ground when I was 11 and in my team there were a lot of 18-year-old girls so I was pretty happy with myself,’ she said.
‘Dad was really stoked too and he thought that maybe this is going somewhere.’
Fosbrooke’s love for the game continued throughout her academic education at Ivanhoe Girls and Ivanhoe Grammar, representing both schools in the sport. At the time Fosbrooke was also taught Physical Education by current Richmond AFLW footballer Christina Bernadi.
‘Christina pretty much brought women’s footy to Ivanhoe Grammar. We played a few games under her guidance and I pretty much loved it and her passion for the game,’ she said.
From there, Fosbrooke joined the Ivanhoe Football Club during her VCE years where she played with many of her school friends who made her “love playing footy even more”, before spending a year at the Darebin Falcons (2016) and the Fitzroy Stars (her brothers club) across the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
In 2019 Fosbrooke also trialled out as a train-on player with Williamstown in the VFLW but was unsuccessful in making the list. Not one to be discouraged she took up a new and ambitious challenge when she travelled up to Darwin and joined St Mary’s; which has a very rich football history, and played in the Northern Territory Football League.
‘I spoke to a few clubs who were pretty keen to have me play but I was pretty drawn to St Mary’s as I had a few friends (from Williamstown) there already and their history as a family club with the Rioli’s, the Long’s and the Ponter’s was amazing,’ Fosbrooke said.
‘I really drawn to them and I got along really well with their assistant coach, I spoke to him heaps on the phone, he was really encouraging me to come down and said that they’d look after me.’
‘I was a bit nervous because I’ve never been away from home for longer than a week.’
After returning from Darwin towards the back half of last year, Fosbrooke at the time wasn’t sure where the next step in her football journey was, before a positive conversation with a couple of close friends in Coburg’s Men’s key defender Harry Nolan and Coburg’s senior Women’s coach Liam Cavanagh encouraged her to come down to the club and try it out.
‘I think it’s pretty exciting and it’s a massive honour to be a part of Coburg’s team,’ she said.
‘Trying out was a bit stressful but I’m really glad that they saw something in me to give me a spot on the list.’
‘I’m just really excited for the community around here, there’s not a lot of women’s clubs like Coburg and seeing as it’s a men’s VFL club and we’re hoping to become a VFLW club next year so it’s really exciting for the young girls growing up here and having someone to look up to.’
One of the standouts throughout the preseason (winner of the 2km time trial) and the four practice games, Fosbrooke believes that there has been plenty of growth in the group, emphasising that chemistry, cohesion and continuity that has been built in and outside the clubs four walls is family like.
‘I think the girls have really embraced that we’re a new club and that we’re going to make mistakes, but we’re making the most of the staff and learning and developing as quick as we can,’ Fosbrooke said.
‘We’ve all gelled so quickly together, I think camp really helped with that and everyone’s really motivated to do well… We’ll probably hit the ground running at the start of the season but it’s really exciting that everyone’s on the same page and taking it seriously.’
‘It’s exactly how it was for me in Darwin, having that family like bond and always looking out for each other.’
Lead, Unite, Leave a Legacy. These are the values on which Coburg’s first ever women’s team was built upon and it speaks volume that after making such an impression during the preseason, Fosbrooke was named in the club’s inaugural leadership group alongside captain Maddie Edwards, vice-captain Bailee Said, Amy Mitchener (backline), and Jacquelyn Bromilow (forward line) as its midfielder leader.
‘I just really tried to put myself out there at training and I’m really happy that the girls have trust and faith in me, that I can do something special and help out and that they look up to me as a leader,’ she said.
‘I could name 10 other girls that can be in my position so I’m really, really humbled by it and I’m really excited to work with the midfield group.’
‘I think it’s also going to help me a lot because I think I work best when I’m teaching someone else, so it’s going to help me a lot with my development.’
Even though Fosbrooke has spent majority of her life playing footy, her biggest sporting highlight and favourite moment belongs to another code she participated in as a child; Karate.
‘I played in a weight division above me and it was the open age group. I was nine years old coming up against what would have been 12-year-olds plus the open age and I came first.’
‘I won the fight and got a gold medal, I then made it into the State Competition and I came third and got a bronze medal for that.’
‘I think it was probably my best moment because getting that gold medal and standing at the top of the podium to see dad smiling and being really happy for me.’
‘He was really excited and I just wanted to make him proud… It was the most memorable sporting moment for me.’
Outside of the sport lifestyle, Fosbrooke works as a gym instructor at the Thomas Embling Hospital in Fairfield where she has been for almost three years.
‘I work in a forensic psychiatric hospital, I don’t know if you’d classify it as a prison but I work as a gym instructor where I teach patients exercises to do, train and play sports with them and give them advice on weight management and what to do exercise wise,’ Fosbrooke said.
In addition to her work, Fosbrooke has also been studying a degree in Exercise and Sports Science at Australian Catholic University and is currently in her final year after five years of part time uni.
‘I pretty much pushed studies aside and did two or three units a semester so that I could focus on footy but I want to study a masters of physiotherapy after I finish this year, I think sports science suits me best.’
Life is a journey and there are many steps that are taken along the way. To keep it simple, Fosbrooke highlights respect and persistence as the values she tries to live by to keep her grounded and to bring out the best of herself and others as well.
‘I think having respect for others and for yourself is really important to me… If I see other people not respecting someone else or themselves, I’m not really drawn to them as friends or anything else.’
‘I’ve obviously been through a lot with Williamstown, I’ve trained with a few other VFLW clubs like Collingwood and I’ve been pushed down a lot, but I think I’ve stepped up and persisted with what I want and not giving up on my goals,’ Fosbrooke said.
‘I want to be the best footballer and best teammate I can be and just make the highest levels possible for me, whether that be local level, VFLW level or AFLW level.’
‘I’m not too worried about not making a high level in this, I’m pretty happy with where I am at the moment but I want to get the most out of my teammates and get the most out of myself.’