Kayleigh Aylmer is getting used to life as an international sportswoman thanks to Britain’s growing Australian rules football scene.
Wearing the red and white of England had never been on the Long Field Academy PE teacher’s radar until she took up the no-holds-barred sport in February.
Within eight months she is already part of the England and British set-up.
Kayleigh’s first taste of Aussie rules came in the sport’s spiritual home during a year spent working Down Under, but her route into the fast-growing sport began a lot closer to her East Goscote home.
While playing football for Leicester-based Northfield Emerald FC she was introduced to Gaelic football, a similar, non-contact equivalent to Aussie Rules.
From there she moved into Aussie Rules with Nottingham Scorpions as well as the London Lions and from there soon got into the reckoning for national honours.
“I went to a trial session for Nottingham Scorpions and from there I became massively keen,” said Kayleigh who also plays football and basketball with Melton Kings in her dwindling spare time.
“I wasn’t confident of getting in the national team because you’re surrounded by a lot of great athletes so it was a very nice surprise and exciting.”
She added: “I’m a PE teacher so I enjoy lots of sports, but Aussie Rules has taken over a bit. It’s probably one of my main sports now.”
Most recently she helped the England Vixens women’s team to the Euro Cup final in Ireland where they fell one step short of retaining their international title.
Kayleigh played defensive roles at half-back and full-back for the Vixens who conceded just a single goal in the group stages as they swept aside Denmark, Wales, Germany and Sweden.
They then kept Croatia scoreless in an equally dominant semi-final win, but the tournament ended prematurely for the Melton teacher when she was forced off with a dislocated shoulder in the final defeat to the hosts.
“It was so good to be lining up against different countries and it was a bit emotional if I’m honest,” she said.
“It was the first time singing the national anthem.
“I’ve played sport for a number of years, but didn’t think I would ever represent my country.”
While the international tournament in Cork was the highlight of her fledgling career so far, further big occasions are on the horizon.
One more victory in the final tournament of the season will earn her Nottingham side a place in next year’s Champions League in Amsterdam.
And on the international scene, Kayleigh is working with the Great Britain set-up as they build towards the IC 2020 in Australia, the sport’s largest international amateur event.
But as the minority sport continues to grow, Kayleigh realises she will have to continue to work hard to keep her place in the pecking order.
“In comparison to Australia it is still up and coming here,” she added.
“There is a London league and a lot of teams are popping up all over the country now.
“It is a physical sport and quite demanding, but at the same time it’s fun and enjoyable.
“It’s doing well and we get a lots of rugby players and footballers giving it a try, which means there will be more and more competition for places.”