Great People at Ivanhoe

Great Teacher: Christina Bernardi

Ivanhoe teacher and AFLW star

2017 was a landmark year for women in sport. The fast-tracked introduction of the AFLW, originally planned for 2020, was met with widespread enthusiasm and support, both in the sporting world and in the wider community. The pioneering players of the first season of womens’ football have set a precedent for young girls coming up through the ranks; not only is football something girls can play, it’s something they can play professionally. One of those pioneers is Ivanhoe Grammar School Middle Years teacher, Ms Christina Bernardi.

Christina grew up in the Whittlesea area and comes from a sporting family. Though she played mostly basketball as a kid, she enjoyed playing footy with her brother and decided to join the womens’ team at Diamond Creek in 2012. As plans for an official AFLW league began to materialise, Christina played in her first exhibition match, attended by draft selectors. She was singled-out as having Collingwood potential and though the Blues supporter in her railed, she was determined to secure a place with the Pies.Christina was at the School the day the draft announcements were live-streamed. Between classes, she and some of her fellow teachers took it in turn to listen out for her name during free periods. She was teaching a Year 7 class when an uproar could be heard in the Middle Years Office. Her name had been called. Christina Bernardi would be playing in the first ever AFLW Collingwood team alongside pioneering marquis player, Moana Hope.

Though she expected community support at the launch of the season, the crowd at the Round 1 match against Carlton still came as a bit of a shock.“I couldn’t believe the stands that day. I kept thinking ‘are all these people here to see us?’” Having come straight from a day of teaching, she arrived for her first AFLW game to see lines already forming and by the first warm-up the stands were packed. Not everyone made it into the ground that day; thousands were turned away and attendance hit 24,000 pax, smashing both records and expectations.

Juggling full-time work with AFLW has been challenging, particularly wearing some post-match battle scars. She was knocked out in Round 3 to miss Collingwood’s first win against the Bulldogs in Round 4 and had to attend the School’s first parent meeting of the year with a black eye.Nothing will ever compare to that first game, though. Christina found herself in tears as the siren went, and not because Carlton beat Collingwood by 35 points. Looking into the crowd she saw a small group of girls from her Year 7 class, waving a banner and calling her name.