Danielle Ponter: Finding her voice in South Australia

27 October 2023

With a formidable family legacy behind her, Adelaide Crows AFLW Premiership star Danielle Ponter is embracing her new life in South Australia, charting her own course and making an impact on and off the football field. 

Danielle was born and raised in Darwin, where her childhood was spent surrounded by cousins and other members of her Rioli-Long extended family, typically with a football in hand. 

Her talent shone from the beginning as she won the best and fairest player award in the NTFL U15 Youth Girls competition for four consecutive years, while navigating the scattergun of women’s football pathways available to her at the time.

“I played nearly every sport. Football was something really special to me, but it obviously wasn’t always an option to sort of take that further then,” she said. 

“My family is everything to me and footy was a big part of how we came together and spent our time.”

When the AFLW launched its first season in 2017, Danielle was 17 years old and suddenly a new dream emerged. 

Following her selection as pick 48 in the 2018 AFLW Draft, the teenager delivered a stand-out performance in the Crows 2019 premiership victory over Melbourne, kicking three goals in front of a record-breaking crowd of 53,034 at Adelaide Oval.

Since then, Danielle has firmly established herself as one of the league’s most creative forwards, awarded Mark of the Year in 2021 and an early favourite to claim the Goal of the Year award this season with what some pundits have called the best goal ever seen in AFLW

Moving to Adelaide earlier this year after several years of flying in and out has given her the opportunity to pursue another childhood dream – working in sport.

Danielle now balances her playing obligations with roles at the SANFL and Adelaide Football Club, where she serves as a mentor in their Kuwa Circles program.

“We are tackling the barriers faced by Indigenous women in STEM and helping with things like career education and pathways,” Danielle said. 

“Only 0.5% of Indigenous people have a STEM qualification, compared to 5% of non-Indigenous people, so it is important to close that gap.

“I love that I get to work with the girls in a really positive way and encourage them to believe that this is an option for them.”

“Growing up, I always knew I wanted to work in sport but never had the chance until I moved to Adelaide. I now get the opportunity to work with experienced people like, Jeremy Johncock, Shane Edwards and Marlon Motlop, and learn from them. 

“This experience in Adelaide is such an important step for me in what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Danielle hopes that this work and her leadership at the Crows will live up to her family’s off field accomplishments. 

Danielle’s uncle, AFL great and Norm Smith Medallist Michael Long, is a highly respected Indigenous figure who was instrumental in the introduction of a racial vilification code in the AFL in 1995 and instigated the “The Long Walk” commemorating the Stolen Generations. 

She recently joined Michael and other family members on the second Long Walk. 

“I love seeing what he did for the game and I am so proud to be his niece,” said Danielle, a Maranunggu, Tiwi and Anmatyerre woman

“As I get older, he really inspires me to use my platform to raise issues so we can continue to make football better for everyone.

“I’m one of 20 indigenous women in the AFLW competition at the moment, which again continues to grow each and every year, but it is a small number. 

“I want to keep proving to young Indigenous girls that this is possible for them, because you can’t be what you can’t see, and to be in a position when they get here where I can support them. 

Danielle said her confidence has grown during her time in Adelaide.

“I’m quiet. I’m shy. I don’t normally try to stand up or be different, so I’m really trying to learn how to do that,” she said.

“Being at Adelaide where our supporters have been behind us since day one and in a team environment like ours has really given me the courage to do that.

“I’ve grown so much from being here (in Adelaide).”

Her role as an AFLW player has also taken Danielle to parts of South Australia that most would never experience.

“I went up to the APY Lands for a few days with some of my teammates to do some clinics with kids and we had a traditional owner take us out to country, which was really special,” Danielle said.

“Football has been the focus since I moved here, so I haven’t really seen much else, but the girls are keen to take me out and get around to a few different places. 

“Anywhere with a beach and summer time and I am happy.”

Danielle and her boyfriend have settled into their new home near the Crows’ West Lakes base and are looking forward to becoming more familiar with their new home town. 

“We are living just 400m away from the beach, which is just incredible,” she said. 

“I will head down to the beach and see a couple of people that we know, or I will be talking to someone and they mention a name that I recognise. 

“It’s really nice to feel like we are part of a community down here as well.”

The sky is the limit for the 23-year-old, who has achieved so much already. 

“I’m proud of the way the competition and our team has inspired people across the country,” Danielle said. 

“Seeing female athletes on the front and back pages of papers around the country and being diverse and strong female role models for the next generation. 

“Adelaide has given us so much and I just want to give back.

“I want to keep learning new stuff from people around me, keep trying to make a difference and see where that takes me.”