At a glance it would appear the former Mt Gambier school girl has ‘made it’ in her chosen fields. But she admits that playing soccer in Norway over the past winter was extremely difficult and really tested her resolve – with the challenges she faced ultimately bringing her back to her Catholic faith.
“I’ve never really had too much of an involvement with my faith to be honest,” she told The Southern Cross from her Scandinavian base.
“I always knew I was Catholic and had beliefs, but never really had it played too much of a part in my life. However, since arriving and playing here in Norway I have recently discovered my faith and it is beginning to play a huge part in my life.
“I believe I was sent here for a reason by God, to go through the struggle and know what it feels like to be on the bottom and facing defeat each week. I believe that this is the path I am being led on and have to take to get to where I want to be.
“I get a little emotional about it all as it’s never been something that affected me too much, but now it’s just so clear and I have all the trust in the world that this is benefiting me whether I see it now or not.”
Jenna’s challenging time with bottom-placed Medkila IL in northern Norway is in stark contrast to the euphoria of 2016 when, in her first overseas contract, she helped her team Stjarnan win the league in Iceland. And then there was the exhilaration of being part of the Adelaide Crows premiership team in the inaugural AFLW season earlier this year.
“The first AFLW season was an absolute rollercoaster – amazing! To be a part of history in so many different ways was just so special.
“No one can ever take that away from us…being the first Crows women’s team, first draftees, first game, first goal kicked, first win, first captains, first grand final and most importantly, first premiership winners – and all as women! It was just so special and significant and will never happen again.”
A talented cricketer in her junior years, Jenna has always been focused on being the best she can be on the field and has made many sacrifices along the way. In 2011 she made the difficult decision to leave her home town of Mount Gambier to attend boarding school in the ‘big smoke’ so it would be easier to get to her sports trainings with the State soccer and football development squads.
(Her mum Lisa, who is assistant principal at Immaculate Heart of Mary School, dad Brian and siblings Bradley, 19, and Alanah, 25 have all since relocated to Adelaide).
After playing the past two W-league seasons at Canberra United, Jenna is looking forward to being back home in Adelaide with her family.
“Returning home to play in the W-league itself was a tempting offer alone… being back with family every day, in my own environment, home cooked meals – I mean you just can’t say no!
“However, I also was impressed with the club and the improvements they have made from a professional point of view since last time I was playing for them, and ultimately that made my decision easy.”
At this stage she says juggling the two codes is manageable and she “definitely can’t choose” one over the other.
“I’ve playing three sports since I was about 10 – giving up cricket back in 2011– so I’ve always had a lot on the go, including all throughout high school, managing assignments, footy trainings, soccer trainings at club, state and national level, so I’m used to the busy schedule – and I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices along the way too.”
For now, she is thrilled to be doing what she loves and making a living out from her sporting ability – “although obviously nowhere near as much as our male counterparts” – while drawing strength from her reinvigorated faith.
The Lady Reds’ season gets underway against Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday November 3. The AFLW season begins in February.