The 2023 AFLW Season may have come to a close for the Saints, but the work of the club’s AFLW Mentor Program doesn’t stop.
Established in the AFLW side’s inaugural years to help its AFLW players grow, develop and learn from a personal and professional sense, the program sees every player partnered with a specially chosen mentor to make them the best they can be, both on and off the field.
Saints leader Natalie Plane might only be a relative newcomer to the club, but already her relationship with mentor and St Kilda Football Club Indigenous Development Manager Aunty Katrina Amon is one of the strongest and most powerful at RSEA Park.
Aunty was one of the first people Nat, a proud Kamilaroi woman, met when first exploring a move from the Blues to the Saints. Since then, their bond has deepened significantly and has pride in Aboriginal culture and strength at its heart.
“I think the mentor system is invaluable,” Aunty Katrina told saints.com.au.
“Both parties gain so much. Every mentor offers something different and the club matches them up so well.”
Nat, how would you best describe Aunty?
NP: I would describe Aunty as both a person and a mentor as someone that’s really genuine, down to earth and caring. She’s very loyal, she’s very loving and quite a strong woman. I think she’s someone who I find easy to talk to and she’s very approachable, and her knowledge about general life and Aboriginal culture is incredible.
From there our relationship has grown so much. Whenever I see her around the club, I’ll always yell out ‘Aunty!’ or we’ll just come over to each other and say hi. She’s just awesome.
Aunty, despite only knowing Nat for a short time, how have you seen her grow or develop?
KA: Nat and I hit it off right from the start. What I have noticed is that despite being new to the club this season, she has demonstrated great leadership on and off the field. She also has a passion about including Aboriginal culture within not just the AFLW, but also the wider club.
Nat and J’Noemi (Anderson) were recently involved in the 2024 jumper design and it was wonderful to have them involved and see their passion in ensuring it represented ‘mob’.
What areas does your Mentor/Mentee relationship focus on?
KA: I think we have both got strength from our culture and we are very in tune to things that are going on in the club, the AFL and society in general. Next season, I think that Nat and I will try and investigate her culture, her mob, her totem more. Culture gives you strength.
As you know, the failed referendum was a difficult time for the Aboriginal Community. My role at this time was to touch base Nat and J’Noemi before and after, and what I admired about the girls was that that care and love was shared between the three of us.
I am enormously proud to have a relationship with these two amazing Aboriginal women. They are not only going to be leaders within St Kilda, but the AFL, our community and most importantly, their own community. The girls are like daughters to me. Including the boys, we have a wonderful family within the club.
What’s the most important lesson or advice Aunty has given you?
NP: I haven’t been at the club for too long, but Aunty has been so big on the idea of ‘keep being me’. Always be proud to be Indigenous, don’t be afraid to talk up when you think you need to, so it’s just the simple things like that which have had the most impact.
Whilst I’ve been at the club, my confidence at the club has grown having someone like Aunty around, always knowing that there’s someone I can go to and talk to makes you feel quite safe and confident to really be myself knowing we’ve got here.
What has been the best piece of advice you’ve been able to give Nat?
KA: I think I always encourage Nat to maintain her positivity and passion for her football, her work and her culture. I also asked Nat to mentor J’Noemi on and off the field. They have a great friendship already and I know they can reach out to each other.
How has Aunty gone above and beyond for you as part of the AFLW Mentor Program?
NP: Earlier in the year, Aunty came up to me and just said ‘give me your boots!’ and she painted my boots for Indigenous Round which I’m very grateful for.
They looked so amazing and I know that would have taken her a lot of time and a lot of effort. The fact that she did that for me - and I didn’t even ask her, she just told me that she’d do it for me! - was so nice and meant a lot.
Aunty has so many amazing traits, but is there any one in particular that stands out to you?
NP: I think her strength is unbelievable. She’s a strong and powerful Aboriginal woman, not only at the club but I think in the wider community. She’s a very passionate person and very caring person, and those traits definitely come across.
Aunty is just an awesome person, a great leader to learn from and I think I’m very lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to meet her and have her be a part of my life, both here and after footy she’s someone I know I can always go to for support.
What are some of Nat’s best characteristics?
KA: Nat is a vivacious, happy, positive woman who has a fantastic outlook to life. I love when we see each other before training that I always get an amazing smile and a cuddle.
I admire how she has a balance between her football and her work - she doesn’t compromise either - and Nat always goes out of her way to involve me in the program and the various other events that occur.
What have you learned from Nat?
KA: I have learned that Nat has a passion for her culture and wants the opportunity to share it as much as she can, which then pushes me to try and ingrain more Aboriginal Culture into St Kilda Football Club and the Danny Frawley Centre.
She has also taught me that you can fit a whole lot in one day - she doesn’t stop! When things don’t go your way, stay positive, hold your head high and work harder.