The North Star sits as one of the brightest stars in the night sky and is know to be a reliable way to find the direction of north. Erini Gikas shares much in common with the star; she’s snagged the NAB Rising Star award and is just as bright and dependable.

The 16-year-old Aussie rules athlete currently plays for St Mary’s FC in Darwin and has been gunning for glory from the moment she had a Sherrin in her hands. While her ambition is second to none, she credits her family for always being there to encourage and push her onwards and upwards.

“My mum and dad have had a huge impact on my footy, they used to take me to every single training session and would work their butts off and leave from work to get me to and from games…and my siblings too because they are always watching my games and giving me pointers to improve on. They tell me the truth, they’re very very honest,” Gikas told Neos Kosmos.

With that kind of determination and encouragement it’s no wonder that Gikas has a trophy cabinet full of accolades including  NAB AFL rising star medal, best on ground medal for the U18’s Grand final in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) competition, ‘Best and Fairest’ trophy in the 2019/2020 season and the U18’s girls Best Utility Player in the 2020/2021 season.

The youngster was also selected to play in the women’s premier league for Saint Mary’s football club as soon as she was eligible at 16 years of age, playing three games in total in the A-Grade league.

Gikas talks dreams for the future, self motivating and wanting to make a mark in women’s football.

READ MORE: Q&A with AFLW Kangaroos’ Tasmanian midfielder Ellie Gavalas

What drew you to Aussie rules?

My brothers all played. I was always watching their games and then it was announced that there was going to be a girl’s competition. I was 12 at that time, so I had been playing with the boys up until that point, so when they announced there was going to be a girl’s competition I joined up right away and started playing.

I really love the footy because my dad had signed me up with the North Melbourne football club from the second I was born, so I’ve had a 16 year membership. He would take me down to the MCG and we were always watching footy. I loved putting it on the TV at family gatherings, I’ve always loved watching it. I love the game and the physicality.

It’s game day, what do you do to get in the zone before the match?

I’m quite a nervous girl, especially when it comes to games because there’s so much pressure. I put a lot of pressure on myself, sometimes unnecessarily, but it’s good to be nervous at times.

Before a game, I’ll eat well, I’ll try and wake up a bit early. You have to be at the game an hour and a half before, so I’ll try and wake up like maybe a couple of hours before just to have a good breakfast and just relax. I drink a lot of fluids and listen to some music.

I try and give myself a word when I need to be quick, usually it’s ‘get’. So it just means you need to ‘get’ in there like and ‘get’ out as fast as possible. ‘Get’ the ball. Those kinds of words help me switch on. I’m also really big on warmups too, but I’m probably the only one of the only people that does the whole warmup list. I hate sitting around for a game and just looking around. I always want to be doing it the best I can to be prepared

Top three training songs?

Probably some Drake and his new album. I’m not really fussed about music, but I like my Pop Smoke and other RnB music, stuff that hypes you up.

What do you find most challenging about the game?

I live in the Northern Territory it’s pretty hot, especially right now. It’s really hot, so some days are around 40 degrees, 35 degrees and we’re playing in those conditions. It’s really tough at times because just have to push your mind and your body through such extreme weather conditions, so I just have to think of something that’s going to mentally push me through. But playing in the Northern Territory has like made me a stronger player because I know that I can play in the worst conditions at times.

What has been a highlight in your sporting career thus far?

Getting selected for the U19’s NAB NT Thunder team, which took me out to play in Melbourne and Ballarat. I got picked twice and you can only get selected for it twice which was great. We went and played in the NAB League teams, we came down as a special guest team. We went up against the NAB teams that I hope to play for one day and I was only 15, so I was quite young for the U19’s comp, it felt great to be recognised at such a young age. I got to experience how the girls down south play and got to get a feel for what kind of playing level I should be at. Another would be winning the NAB Rising Star award with the NT Thunder team.

How has Aussie rules impacted your life?

I’m 16, so a lot of people my age aren’t really sporty. My ultimate goal is to play at the highest level, so I’m really devoted to it all, eating well, not partying and drinking. I’m always trying to do the right and spend a lot of hours training. A lot of friends have asked to do things, and I do make that time but I usually put training first. I’m always working in the gym, getting stronger, at the clubhouse, kicking the ball to myself, always trying to improve, I avoid staying up late. That’s how it’s impacted me as a teenager, because I also have to balance school as well and get all my work done, so footy sits alongside that. But I’m really devoted to it because now with the AFLW competition, it makes it feel more possible to play now that there’s a league for it.

What is something you learned about yourself through playing the game?

That I’m aggressive, but in a good way. By that I mean getting under the ball, getting hit, I don’t mind if I have to get throw around for my teammates. I’ll take the bumps, I’ll shepherd you, I’ll do it for my team. I know that I’m a strong girl and a good teammate to have and that I’d do anything for them on and off the field.

What do you hope to achieve in the next year?

I’m 17 next year, so I’m pretty sure I’m eligible for the draft which is exciting. A goal would be possibly get drafted but if not I still have the next year and year after that. Right now I’m just going to work hard during the season and see what I need to improve.

What’s something someone might be surprised to learn about you?

I guess that I play a few other sports too like soccer and netball

Favourite way to unwind after a game?

Just getting some food in right away, I’m always super hungry after a game. You do feel like eating Maccas after a game, but because mum and dad are Greek they’re really good cooks and there’s always food in the house. I just like to relax and drink plenty of water, it’s really important to rehydrate especially here [Northern Territory]. If there’s time after, usually after an early game I like heading to a family gathering.

What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

Right now I’m playing in the Premier League, so I’d like to win a flag with the team. I was playing in the juniors before, so this is a big step up. We’d love to push toward that Premiership. I’ll be working hard to keep my spot in the team, it’s a lot harder to keep that place in the Premier League than it is in the junior.

What is something you want to be remembered by?

I’s like for my kids to hear from others that I was a good footballer. I didn’t really have that as a kid, my parents were sporty and would play soccer with their local teams, they didn’t have the opportunities that I have now. I hope people remember me as a good person too and maybe a club legend.