Jess Good Chats About Her Shift From Basketball to AFLW

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The switch from shooting hoops to kicking goals has been a good move for Jess Good.

Three seasons in, the Carlton player is hitting some career-best form — finding a new, competitive level in her role as the Blue’s first choice ruck in the 2023 AFLW season.

A self-confessed “Bulldogs nut”, Good’s earliest footy memories are of weekend trips to Melbourne to watch the AFL. As a child, Good’s family moved to Adelaide, but the pull of the footy was strong and saw her regularly accompany her Pie-fanatic father to games, particularly for the annual Collingwood v Western Bulldogs clash.

“One year, I got a Dogs guernsey for Christmas — they had to bring the sleeves up for me, they were ridiculously long, and offered to put a number on the back,” she recalled. Without question, Good requested #3, her childhood footy hero, Bulldog legend, Chris Grant.

Chris Grant, AFL player, running on field holding football.
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Despite their dedication to footy fandom, Good’s family was big on basketball, so it comes as no surprise that it was her first sporting success. Her talent and skill as a reliable rebound player led to the opportunity to compete at the elite level — a spot on the roster at Adelaide Lightning, the lone South Australian team in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL). First as a development player in 2012, then graduating to the main list for the 2016-2017 season.

During her time with the Lightning, Good was in good company, playing and training alongside the likes of Jennifer Screen, Laura Hodges and Rachael Sporn — all former Opals and Australian Basketball stars. She counts Lightning teammate and former Seattle Storm player Steph Talbot as the biggest name that she has played with, and, as her best mate.

Good acknowledges that it was a significant mentorship as a young player, and credits that time spent alongside such high-calibre athletes with her ability to navigate not one, but two sports, at an elite level.

Jess Good AFLW player holding football
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“To have that background working and playing with Olympians — you see how hard they train and what sacrifices they make — of course that rubs off on you,” she said.

In August 2018, Good took her basketball overseas, signing with the Sevenoaks Suns, a powerhouse in the Women’s British Basketball League. The Suns proved a great choice, the team registering an undefeated run and claiming the League Championship that season.

Good returned home a championship player, planning to re-join WNBL — but the pandemic struck, and the basketball season was scrapped. Blessed with a competitive nature, Good knew that she needed something to fill the gap, and fortunately, a former Lightning teammate had the perfect substitution.

Basketball had connected her with Kerryn Peterson (nee Harrington), the current captain of the Blues women’s side. The two were teammates for a season, and it was at Harrington’s insistence that Good gave footy a crack.

“Kez had been nagging at me to play footy for a while, and I was like, oh, alright. So, I thought I’d dabble in it — I’m not going to put my hand up to go straight into the AFLW without trying it first!” she laughed.

Jess Good and Kerryn Peterson at the AFLW W awards
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Good took the encouragement in her stride and joined local club Blackwood FC in 2020. Much like her maiden foray into international Basketball, Good found success early, winning a premiership with the side in her first year.

Her efforts in that debut season didn’t go unnoticed — state footy club Sturt FC reached out and Good’s upward trajectory continued — with the club naming her for eight games in the 2021 season of the South Australian National Football League.

Then came the call from Carlton.

Despite assurances, it was a slightly nervous time for Good. She’d planned to visit Melbourne and conduct interviews to get a feel for the football club, but her travel was put on ice numerous times thanks to pandemic-forced border closures.

Good had also had conversations with the Adelaide Crows, and notes that although the South Australian powerhouse conceded she had produced an impressive state-level season, she wasn’t what their playing list required.

“I went in for the draft, didn’t’ get picked up — but it was fine, because I had Carlton. I was in a very fortunate position, with it not being a National Draft. I knew it would only be the Crows who could pick me, and they already said no.”

AFLW Players celebrating a win
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Former Blues head coach Daniel Harford rang Good prior to the draft to confirm they would pass on their pick (number 39 in the 2021 AFL Women’s Draft) and would take her as an undrafted free agent.

Thanks to her friendship with Peterson, Good found the initial transition to life at Carlton comfortable.

“Having a familiar face helped, especially in the initial process. To really get a feel for the place through someone that you trust and know — who is highly regarded at the club. It’s definitely handy to have her in my corner as well.”

On a skills front, Good was also prepared. One of her biggest assets in basketball, her bodywork, was about to be front and centre in her new role in the Carlton midfield — the ruck.

“It’s the biggest thing that has been able to correlate between basketball and football for me. That body work, the boxing out, being able to handle a body while focusing on a ball — it’s a big strength of mine because I’ve been doing it for the last ten years in professional basketball,” Good reflects.

Brought in to support Carlton’s Breann Moody, Good’s presence has allowed her training partner to roll forward, providing dangerous options for the Blues both in the middle of the ground and in front of goals. Good couldn’t ask for a better teammate to help develop her footy — Moody’s consistently strong form in the past two season has seen her claim dual All Australian status.

Breann Moody, AFLW player at training
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“To be able to train with an All Australian, it’s cool — it gives you confidence. If I can compete with her at training, I can compete with anyone,” Good said.

Good’s third season at the Blues has seen her find a particularly good rhythm on field. Largely shouldering the ruck duties for four quarters, she is winning clearances and proving herself reliable option around the ground. She credits Moody’s influence as a big contributor.

“The way that she goes about things and the time she puts in, it’s really helped me to escalate my ruck craft.”

Alongside her footy commitments, the 29-year-old works part-time as an exercise physiologist, and teaches Pilates once week, enjoying the flexibility that the current AFL Collective Bargaining Agreement offers players.

“The new CBA coming in has meant that players can prioritise their footy, but also look at study and other career opportunities whilst working in football.”

Off-field, Good’s easy-going personality has also seen her pick up extra media duties, as the host of the Blues Women’s podcast — Yeah, Good Chat. Despite claiming that she fell into it after getting the shoulder-tap from their media team, it’s clear that Good loves authentic conversations and the opportunity to actually connect over a chat with her teammates.

“Love a good chat,” she laughs. “It’s just two friends catching up, chatting about footy, about life outside of footy. During the day you don’t have time to sit down for half an hour and literally just chat. I absolutely love it.”

When it comes to footy, both on and off-field, it’s that team connection and comradery that Good values most.

“The locker room post a win, I don’t think it gets much better than that — that’s what you play for, it’s the best part. Even after a loss, as miserable as it is, you’re still getting around people. You just can’t go past it,” she said.

“I could not survive in an individual sport, I’m very much about what we can do to make other people better.”

Keep up with Jess on Instagram, and find out more about AFLW games on near you here.

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