Even with great success behind her, Richmond AFLW player and Swinburne student Ellie McKenzie has had to overcome her share of challenges. Ellie graduated from Year 12 in 2020, and knows what a disruptive, and at times disappointing, final year feels like.
As an elite athlete and student, Ellie also understands the pressure of juggling multiple commitments.
She shares how she chose her Swinburne degree, her approach for balancing her busy schedule and making the most of the flexible environment.
The 2020 draft was something Ellie had been looking forward to her whole junior football playing career. ‘It was a little disappointing to do it from the couch, but it was a unique draft, so that’s how I try and look at it,’ says Ellie.
Life’s big decisions require a trusted inner circle
Whether it’s a life, career or personal decision that Ellie has to make, she always turns to her circle of trust.
It can be tempting to think that asking for advice from a wide range of people will make your decision easier. Ellie finds it has the opposite effect.
‘Try to stick to the advice of your teachers, your family and friends,’ says Ellie.
When faced with the decision about what and where to study, Ellie did precisely that.
‘I talked to Monique Conti a lot, she praised the uni very highly. And I thought if she likes it, I will too. And I have so far.’
Ellie sought the advice of good friend, Swinburne student and fellow Richmond AFLW player Monique Conti (left) to help her decide where and what to study.
Once she’d settled on Swinburne, it was time to decide on her course. With the VTAC preferences deadline fast approaching, and three very different options – business, law and psychology – on the table, Ellie once again consulted with those closest to her.
‘The advice I got was to go a bit more general and if you find things you like in that degree you can always branch out to something else,' says Ellie. ‘I chose my Bachelor of Business because it had the flexibility to specialise, and I could see how it would help me post-footy.’
Flexible learning, flexible life
Ellie enjoyed the freedoms that came with completing her Year 12 studies remotely. It’s a fluid, flexible and technology-led learning style she’s been able to continue at Swinburne. That’s a good thing, given her jam-packed schedule sees her at Richmond Football Club training until 10pm most days.
‘The beauty of online learning at Swinburne is that it’s made balancing my two full-time commitments easier.’
As for making friends? ‘It’s obviously a bit more difficult when you’re online. But group projects have been helped me get to know my classmates,’ says Ellie. ‘It’s exciting to think I’ll be able to meet them face-to-face on campus soon.’
Creating a brighter tomorrow, today
Ellie is fearlessly paving the way towards an even playing field. ‘The future I see is one of equality, where women are equal to the men in terms of pay,’ says Ellie. ‘That’s the thing I want to help create post-study and in my football career as well.’
Ellie was Fitzroy’s second ever registered female footballer. She didn’t let the fact that a women’s team didn’t exist stop her from chasing her dream to play professional football.
Ellie’s top five tips for balancing life, work, sport and study
- Put your phone away. This is something I definitely need to get better at!
- Take a break. Taking regular breaks will make you more productive.
- Embrace flexible learning. Create a schedule that suits you.
- Spend your time doing what makes you happy. Don’t be stuck in something you’re not enjoying,
- Find time for mindfulness. Drawing helps with my mental wellbeing