“As a kid [Bridport] was the best place to grow up. The community is very supportive—I feel like it’s given me so many opportunities."
"Tasmanians take risks, they give things a go. There are obstacles but you just keep on trying. Living here all my life, I saw my parents work hard, and it influenced me to strive. This is Tasmanian.”
Growing up in Bridport, on the north-east coast of Tasmania, Jemma Blair has always described herself as ‘Tasmanian’ before Australian.
Surrounded by panoramic coastal views of Bass Strait and the sloping hills of vineyards, she felt a strong sense of community around her from a very young age.
“As a kid it was the best place to grow up,” she says. “The community is very supportive—I feel like it’s given me so many opportunities and helped me make connections with new people easily, no matter where I go. I’m very driven and I think being surrounded by this community has encouraged me to achieve everything I have.”
It doesn’t seem easy to get where she is—a young woman from a regional town, in her final year of school and already a highly accomplished Australian Rules football player—but despite the potential hurdles, Jemma thinks her journey has been an easy and natural progression.
Sporting events often double as social gatherings in small towns, and Bridport is no exception. It was common to see most of the community in attendance at games, and with her father heavily involved with the Bridport Football Club, Jemma was always surrounded by sports. While her dad coached her brother and other kids, Jemma stuck to netball and athletics until making the move to Launceston, an hour’s drive inland from the coastal community of Bridport with a population over sixty times the size.
“When I was younger, Dad used to take the Auskick for Bridport. It was all boys basically; I trained with them a few times, but back then it wasn’t really seen to be a serious option for women. After moving to Launceston, Deb Reynolds [first female assistant coach in Tasmanian State League history] started coaching the East Launceston Junior Football Club and I was encouraged to join, so I just thought I’d give it a go.”
After a few short years and a lot of hard work, Jemma is now vice-captain of the Tasmania Devils under-19s. She’s competed in national championships, played VFL with North Melbourne, and loves educating her peers on what it means to be Tasmanian when she plays on mainland Australia.
“When I travel people ask where I’m from, and when I say Tasmania they are intrigued. They don’t know much about it. I played in an under-19s national championship with teams made up of girls from around Australia, and when I told them I was from Tasmania, I was surprised by what they said. They really didn’t know much about the state I call home at all, other than Tasmania has ‘trees and nice beaches’—they even asked if we had the same digital music!”
“When I told them about my Tasmania, they were surprised. I think I convinced them to visit one day.”
While most people her age are still figuring out what’s next, Jemma is confident in her path. She’s driven to continue AFLW to the highest level she can but is thinking beyond her football career with plans to study degrees in Sport Sciences and Business for a profession in exercise physiology, or physiotherapy—maybe even start her own enterprise.
Wherever life takes her, Jemma knows that Tasmania is where she’ll end up, and Bridport will always be the town she calls home.
“We call our Launceston house ‘the shack’ and our Bridport house ‘the home’. I can’t picture myself living anywhere else,” she says.
“I’d like to think I’ll raise my kids here. It’s the best place to grow up. Tasmanians take risks, they give things a go. There are obstacles but you just keep on trying. Living here all my life, I saw my parents work hard, and it influenced me to strive.
“This is Tasmanian.”
Jemma Blair is one of 18 Tasmanians featured in our short film about the Tasmanian story. Jemma's scene was filmed at a football ground in East Launceston.