by Sam Davies
Kirsty Lamb was chosen to play cricket for Victoria at only 18 years of age. She was then picked up by the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League.
Once the AFLW competition was announced in 2016, Kirsty switched codes in the inaugural draft and was chosen by the Western Bulldogs, which started her incredible footy career.
Western Bulldogs Best and Fairest Winner in 2022. 2018 Premiership Player. 2022 AFLPA’s Most Courageous Player. 2022 All Australian. Amazing achievements in only five years.
However, what most don’t know is that Kirsty has been battling plantar fasciitis for the last two AFLW seasons making training and playing very difficult.
Our podiatrist, Sam Davies was able to sit down with Kirsty and chat about her career and injury management.
SD: Kirsty Lamb! Thank-you so much for meeting with us today. With playing footy and cricket at an elite level, was it always those two sports when you were growing up? Or were you one of those kids that had a go at everything?
KL: Yeah, I was one of those kids that did everything. Growing up I was doing footy, netball, basketball, and cricket. I tried to do all four sports each year. But when I started to get a bit older my love for footy and cricket grew stronger and stronger.
Eventually it got to the stage where I couldn’t continue all four sports, so I just chose the two. I chopped and changed all throughout my teens as to which sport I was going to pursue until cricket took off.
SD: Was one of the reasons you eventually chose cricket was that there wasn’t an avenue open to pursue AFL for women at the time?
KL: That was pretty much it. I got to the age of fourteen when I got kicked out from junior boys footy because girls weren’t allowed to play past that. I did find a women’s team down the road in Diamond Creek, which I started playing senior girl’s football from fifteen years of age.
But then I had started playing some representative cricket where there was a pathway to state cricket and to play for your country. So, I naturally followed that pathway knowing there was nothing for footy at that stage. Basically, I decided on cricket and followed it as far as I could.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Instagram @bulldogsw
SD: In 2012, when you were only eighteen years old you were selected to play for the Victorian state cricket side. Then in 2015 you were chosen to play in the Big Bash League with the Melbourne Renegades. You also went overseas and played for Staffordshire. Throughout that time where did footy fit in?
KL: Yeah, so footy was an interesting one. I tried to just play when I wanted to. There were times when I played for the whole year, doing both footy and cricket. Then there were other years when I just needed a break so didn’t play footy.
However, the year I went over and played in the UK  was also when they announced that the AFLW was going to start and that there was going to be a draft. This meant I had a choice to make and to be honest I was a pretty rubbish cricketer. I wasn’t playing state cricket anymore. I was never getting selected, so I was at a crossroads with my cricket career.
I still wanted to have a crack at playing state cricket, so I took off to England to play a summer over there. This meant I would miss football season over here [in Australia] given the differences between summer and winter.
That was a big call to make knowing that this footy draft thing was going to happen. In that year I did end up playing five footy games, which was straight after coming back from England after being there for three months. Luckily, I managed to get picked up in the AFLW draft after those five games. I just scraped in the last round of the draft. I’m pretty sure I was the third or fourth last pick.
SD: Funny you should mention that as I have it on good authority that you didn’t see your name get called out in the AFLW draft. Is this true?
KL: No, I didn’t! I stopped watching it because all my mates around me were getting drafted and it was coming up to the last round. I just figured that I was done, that I wasn’t going to get drafted. So yeah, I did turn it off and didn’t see my name get called out.
SD: So, when did you find out that you had been drafted?
KL: I was so annoyed, so frustrated that I got in the car and was driving to cricket training when a family friend messaged me saying, “Oh my god. Congratulations!”
I quickly pulled over the car and opened-up the draft app and saw my name at the bottom of the screen. Then there were a couple of other people picked up after me.
SD: Incredible. I imagine that would have been one of the more enjoyable cricket trainings?
KL: Yeah, it was awesome because at the same time Emma Kearney and Jess Cameron (at the time but now Jess Duffin) were playing state cricket as well and all three of us got drafted on the same day.
SD: With your degrees in sport science and massage I imagine you see a lot of overuse injuries come through the door. And the number one thing they have in common are the huge training loads or sudden increase in training loads. That’s usually just with one sport too. How did you condition your body to juggle two sports at the elite level?
KL: Yeah, I don’t know. I guess it’s just one of those things- you do what you’re told. I guess that’s how I’ve always lived my life. Someone tells me to do something, I’m generally going to do it, but you’ve got to have really good people around you.
There were a couple of years where I was playing with the Renegades, state cricket and AFLW, which was pretty hectic. But I think I’ve got a good background now with my studies, knowing how the body works and understanding load management.
As you get older you also become a bit more mature with these sorts of things. I definitely remember as a young’un I used to throw my body into everything. I’m a pretty injury prone person, probably because of the style of footy I play and also being a pace bowler. But if I’m told to train “footy, cricket, footy, cricket” throughout the week, then that’s what I’ll do.
SD: Now you have been an AFLW player for only 5 years yet you are a premiership player, All Australian, Club Best and Fairest winner, AFLPA Most Courageous player. That’s a highly decorated career for such a short time. What was it like winning the Grand Final against Brisbane?
KL: For what it’s worth we are still the only Melbourne-based team to win a flag. We hold that fact very closely to our chest. We were very happy seeing Melbourne [AFLW side] lose the Grand Final this year.
It’s one of those things where I feel like [the premiership] was yesterday but in time you have trouble remembering everything. There are parts of the day that are just a huge blur, which really bugs me. I wish I could remember every detail of it.
It was pouring with rain. We were soaked, even before the game had started. All the players had their families there, it was a surreal feeling. It was just a couple of years after the guys [Western Bulldogs men’s team] had won their flag and only our second year of being in the competition.
If you look back now, on paper the team we had that day was incredible. Some of those names that have now gone to other AFLW clubs and become captains and best and fairest winners. We had a pretty bloody good team! I’m very grateful we were able to win a flag.
SD: Being so footy focused for half-a-decade, is there a part of you that misses cricket?
KL: Honestly, I don’t miss cricket a single bit. I really struggled throughout my cricket career to play games. I only managed to play a handful of games and I was contracted for five to six years.
You dedicate a lot of time training for your sport, so you want nothing more than to be playing. Whereas I think I was a pretty good Gatorade maker at the end of my cricket career.
Cricket taught me a lot but I’m very happy to just be playing footy now. Honestly, I can’t see myself picking up a cricket ball any time soon. I haven’t bowled a ball since that last year I was contracted to the Melbourne Renegades. I’m very happy with footy.
Credit: Photo courtesy Instagram @kirstylamb5
SD: Looking at your incredible 2022 season with the Bulldogs and all that you achieved, I was taken aback to learn that you only had two weeks of preseason training. What interrupted your preparations for the year?
KL: Yeah, so I’ve had plantar fasciitis for about two seasons now. It started in January 2021. I played through the entire 2021 season with it and was really struggling by the end of the last game.
I was put into a moon boot, and we tried a few different things. However, because AFLW players aren’t contracted for twelve months of the year (which is part of a bigger conversation) sometimes injuries just get left behind, and you just pick up where you left off at the start of the next season. And that’s what happened with my foot. I had nothing done for it for a number of months. I couldn’t get rid of it on my own.
I came back into preseason, and I literally couldn’t run. You have to do a lot of running in preseason and I could barely walk, let alone jog. So, we went down this path of trying to understand the injury more and what management we could do around it. But by then it was too late, preseason had already started. We didn’t have much time to get it right. I barely trained at all during the 2022 preseason.
We’ve tried a number of things including cortisone, different shoes, orthoses, different sorts of injections. I’ve looked at couple of different surgical options at the start of the season but then again, we didn’t have enough time.
It was a pretty difficult season. I only trained once between games during the entire year. Generally, we would always have two training sessions but the pain from my foot after a game was so bad, I just could never get up for the two trainings. And we [the Bulldogs] had a couple of midweek games. So, it [management] was literally just recover as best as I could with only three to four days between games.
Thankfully I’ve had something done about this lingering foot issue so hopefully it will no longer annoy me.
SD: How do you maintain fitness levels and aerobic capacity when you can’t run?
KL: It’s a hard one. I’m the type of person where running is my best way to get fit. It’s something that really challenges me. I mean, I don’t like running at all, I’m not good at it but for me it’s something I need to do. So [during this injury] there was a lot of bike work, boxing, time on the rower. We are very lucky that we have all this equipment at the footy club.
One of the things that sucks about rehab is that you can’t just train twice per week and hope to maintain your fitness at the same level as everyone else who is training properly. It’s a matter of doing something every day to keep up with them, the players that can run. Preseason becomes pretty hard when you have to train every day, where you don’t get a mental break.
But yeah, there are plenty of other things you can do that don’t involve the foot.
SD: Now that the season has finished you have had plantar fascia surgery. How is the foot feeling?
KL: Yeah, I’m currently five days post-surgery and it’s feeling fine. I’ve had my fair share of moon boots, I feel like I end up in one most seasons. So far it hasn’t been too bad at all. It’s not sore and I can walk fine on it.
I’ve got a little dog that I usually take on two walks per day, so he is a bit angry with me. He’s not getting the royal treatment he usually receives from me.
I’ll start doing some bike work in the coming week. And I’ll hopefully be getting the moon boot off in two weeks.
SD: Fantastic news. It sounds like everything is going well for a big crack at season 2023 and that second premiership.
KL: Yeah, that’s it! Fingers crossed everything goes according to plan. As well as my foot I also had a shoulder reconstruction three weeks ago. My shoulder literally puts me out until round one. So, I can’t afford any setbacks.
With my foot in a moon boot and my arm in a sling it’s been a lot of fun.
SD: There’s a lot going on. Kirsty, you have been fantastic. I wonder if I can just end on three off topic questions?
KL: Of course.
- SD: Favourite holiday destination?
KL: Probably Hawaii. I’ve been there once before, and I wasn’t there anywhere near long enough. Keen to get back there at some stage.
- SD: Any pregame superstitions?
KL: No. I’m one of the most boring people you will ever meet. I don’t do superstitions because if one day you don’t do them, does that mean you play poorly?
So, no I don’t have any. None of this put left boot on first, a pair of undies or a particular bra. None of that. As long as there’s music on and a few people around I’m happy.
- SD: If there was one more code switch on the cards what would that other sport be?
KL: I loved netball growing up and enjoyed playing centre. Has to be a team sport.
SD: Brilliant. Thanks a lot for taking the time with us today Kirsty and good luck with season 2023.
KL: Too easy. Thanks for having me