Is the Barty Party an AFLW pipe dream? Clubs won't die wondering

AS SOON as Ash Barty shocked the sporting world with news of her retirement at just 25, senior AFLW figures began to ponder their next move. 

Barty – a fanatical Richmond supporter with close ties to AFL skipper Trent Cotchin and AFLW captain Katie Brennan – has never shied away from her love of footy. 

Whether at Wimbledon or closer to home at Melbourne Park, a Sherrin routinely formed part of her pre-match warm-up. 

And it was Barty who handed Richmond its 2020 premiership trophy at the Gabba, after a come-from-behind victory against Geelong.

"I know that the time is right now for me to step away and chase other dreams and to put the racquets down," Barty said on Wednesday.

So just what are those dreams – and could AFLW be one of them? understands at least four clubs would put out feelers, when the time was right, to team Barty. One senior AFLW player has already been in contact via text. 

It would be some coup for the women's league, which will expand to 18 teams next season. August appears as the likely starting date. 

Barty's connections at Richmond run deeper than Cotchin and Brennan. 

Head of women's football Kate Sheahan has known Barty for years, having previously run her own tennis academy. 

Despite those yellow and black links, Barty remains based in Queensland, where Brisbane and Gold Coast both have AFLW sides. 

They'd be mad not to pick up the phone and invite Barty into their four walls. 

As one head of footy remarked, that's the role she'd seek for the tennis superstar: one as mentor, leader and teacher. Off the field, Barty holds, perhaps, the most value. 

A disciple of mindset coach Ben Crowe, Barty's grace, gratitude and humility have come to define the Australian champion. 

Ash Barty at Uluru following her triumph in the Australian Open in 2022. Picture: Tennis Australia

Those same values underpinned her retirement announcement on Wednesday. 

Still, Barty has shown she's a natural when it comes to other sports. 

The three-time Grand Slam champion previously retired from tennis in 2014 before signing with the Brisbane Heat in the WBBL. 

Barty returned to the tennis circuit in 2016, aged 20, and went on to win the 2019 French Open, 2021 Wimbledon and 2022 Australian Open. 

For the past three years, the proud Ngarigo woman has finished as the No.1-ranked woman in tennis, with her final match that most captivating straight-sets win over American Danielle Collins in the Australian Open final. 

With Barty amassing US$23,829,071 in prizemoney, a move into the AFLW space would certainly not be for financial gain. 

But it may be one of those dreams she'd like to realise.   

"I think that for me just feels like the most perfect way, my perfect way, to celebrate what an amazing journey my tennis career has been," Barty said. 

"As a person, this is what I want, I want to chase after some other dreams that I've wanted to do and always had that really healthy balance, but I'm really, really excited."

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