“I did Auskick but then there wasn’t a girls’ team, so in under 11s I was playing with the boys before switching to Port Melbourne because they had a girls’ team.”
Whilst initially being drawn to football because of her brothers, Hurley’s passion has since thrived.
“I have twin brothers and they were sort of into it because all the boys played it when they were younger. They just did it because everyone did it.”
Hurley recalls playing in two losing grand finals but remembers Port Melbourne’s clash against East Sandringham in 2019 the most strongly, which featured several now Sandringham Dragons players.
“[East Sandringham] had multiple teams, they’d get to do an A’s and B’s team because they had enough girls. Port Melbourne never had enough girls, every season we would be ten girls short, and we’d have to find ten girls who had never played before.
“It was pretty cool that we made the grand final, for lots of girls it was their first time playing.”
Hurley was always athletically gifted as a child, spreading her talents in both basketball and cross country running, and pinpoints her dad as one of her biggest sporting influences.
Sofia Hurley breaks away from a pack against the Northern Knights. (Source: Rookie Me Central)
There’s an argument that Sofia Hurley is one of the Sandringham Dragons’ most decorated players ever.
She is a back-to-back best and fairest winner and was also named in the NAB League Team of the Year this season.
When she was first introduced to the program, she admits that it was initially a shock to the system.
“It was quite a big jump from the other levels I’d been involved with. It felt almost professional, it was really strict with cuts, and it just felt much more serious.
“That first year was probably the biggest jump but after that it’s been pretty consistent and easy to settle into.”
Despite her incredible talent, Hurley said that the COVID-19 pandemic certainly provided her some challenges.
“I don’t really have anyone near me that was doing Sandy, so my fitness levels and motivations I found quite difficult.
“I was lucky with school, they gave us things to do during lockdown and we had online sessions, so I still got to do some footy stuff.”
Sofia Hurley gets a handball away for the Sandringham Dragons. (Source: AFL Photos)
Reflecting on the Dragons season this year, Hurley said that despite another change in coach, the ability for the team to gel was pleasing.
“The togetherness of the team I thought was pretty good this year, compared to past seasons.
“Every year when it changes, you don’t really know what to expect.
“It was pretty good this year, I really enjoyed it and made a lot of friendships with different girls.”
Hurley’s dominant displays in the NAB League saw her selected for the Vic Metro squad for the Under 18 National Championships, where she was able to make the step up once more.
“The best thing about it is that you can play your game even more than you would at NAB League level. I was playing with people who I think are quite better than me, so I could rely on them to do whatever and then I can do whatever I want and it all falls into place, which is really cool. It’s almost like there’s more freedom in a way, things just seem to fall into place.”
Roper has been one of Hurley’s most influential coaches and says that her “Sof special side-step” allowed Metro’s forwards to “complete the magic”.
But Hurley doesn’t just contribute on-field. Her bubbly, infectious personality and “unique humour”, as Roper puts it, “add to the many memorable parts that make Sofia, Sofia”.
Sofia Hurley representing Vic Metro in the U18 National Championships. (Source: AFL Photos)
The accolades and recognition didn’t stop there for Hurley, who was chosen to partake in the AFLW Academy.
“I’d heard about an academy, but I didn’t know too much about it. When Tarkyn [Lockyer] pulled us aside at the end of last year that was pretty cool and really exciting as well.”
Hurley was fortunate enough to be coached by Melbourne’s Daisy Pearce, a trailblazer and superstar of women’s football.
“I played in the forward line and Daisy was the forwards coach on game day, that was really cool, she was in charge of us pretty much. She was so nice and outside of footy during the day she was really approachable and easy to talk to about anything.”
Sofia Hurley receives her AFLW Academy jumper. (Source: AFL Photos)
Due to a range of factors, this year’s AFLW combine only involved a 2km time trial and not the full plethora of fitness testing that usually occurs.
Hurley’s background in cross country certainly held her in good stead when she blitzed the time trial, running it in a rapid 7min 23sec, the fourth fastest in AFLW combine history.
“It was a sprint for Sof!” laughed teammate Bridie Hipwell.
Hurley’s elite running capacity has allowed her to become one of the best two-way runners in this year’s draft pool.
“The big thing for me is her ability to run both ways,” said head coach Wayne Cripps.
Not only did Hurley average 25.6 disposals per match for the Dragons but she also went at 9.3 tackles per game, a significant increase in both statistical areas on her previous NAB League campaigns.
Sofia Hurley runs the 2km time trial at the AFLW combine. (Source: AFL Photos)
Hurley and the Western Jets’ Montana Ham, another highly rated youngster, both shocked the footballing landscape when they nominated for the NSW draft zone ahead of the draft.
And Hurley has since revealed that Sydney suited her off-field ambitions more than Melbourne.
“I really wanted to get out of Melbourne and all the Sydney universities are renowned for their architecture courses.
Hurley has always placed a strong emphasis on her education, having finished her schooling at Caulfield Grammar last year with terrific results.
She admitted that last year, “footy was secondary” such was her commitment to her studies.
But this season, she’s put footy first and absolutely flourished.
Sofia Hurley evades a tackle against the Northern Knights. (Source: AFL Photos)
And now it’s all about to pay off for Hurley.
“Because there was no dates or clarity for so long, I feel like it hasn’t set in yet for me.”
Her initial plans were to take a gap year in 2022 and travel to Europe but she’s put her jet-setting plans on hold for the time being.
“When they changed the footy dates, I had to decide between footy and travel so obviously I took footy. I’ve just been working because I was saving up to travel.”
Hurley has worked behind a bar and in administration alongside her footy this year, but it appears she may be trading the bar for the big stage very soon.
“I’m excited but I think it will feel more real and maybe a bit more nerve-wracking as we get closer to it.
“Especially everything that I was lucky enough to do this year with the Academy and all of that, it’s just sort of shown how exciting the opportunity really is and everything that is hopefully going to come with it if I get drafted.”
The AFLW Draft will take place on Wednesday 29 June and can be streamed live via womens.afl.