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Kate Franklin: Australian Rules and Engineering

Thu, 27 October, 2022

As the Team Manager of TWI’s Friction and Forge Processes team, Kate Franklin is one of our leading engineering experts.

Having recently been appointed to her role as manager, Kate oversees the projects of others as well as still managing her own projects relating predominantly to rotary friction welding, linear friction welding and friction stir welding.

However, when she is not assisting with Industrial Members’ projects in our labs or creating reports on new designs, technologies, and more, she can be found representing England and Great Britain at Australian Rules football.

Playing for the Great British Swans, Kate managed to reach the finals of the AFL Europe European Championships in Zagreb, Croatia. Although the GB Swans were beaten by the eventual winners, the Irish Banshees, and finished runners up, their achievement still showed great development, as they finished 3rd last time out. This had been Kate’s first cap as she had only been playing in the team for a year at that time.

Kate began playing Australian Rules football while at the University of Birmingham, where she spent three years undertaking a sports and materials science joint honours undergraduate degree before moving on to a four year post-graduate course.

When she began at university she played netball and ran on the athletics team but found these were getting in the way of her studies near the end of her PhD, so looked for something more “relaxed” to try instead. Some of her university friends who already played the sport recommended that Kate tried Australian Rules football during her last year of study. However, her plans for a quieter life were derailed when she was scouted to play 9-a-side for England and 18-a-side for Great Britain!

Having also played for various local teams, Kate now turns out for the North London Lions in the AFL London League, which is the largest Australian Rules league outside of Australia itself. She also trains in Gaelic football, which has many similarities to Australian rules as far as the skills required.

Australian Rules football doesn’t have any offside rules and, unlike with rugby, you can pass the ball forward – although the ball can only be kicked or punched (not thrown).

As for the AFL European championships themselves, Kate revealed that she not only managed to score in the semi-finals (despite playing in defence) but also was named as one of the 4 best GB Swans players to solidify her place in the ‘team of the tournament’. With the 80-minute matches lasting around two hours including breaks, the tournament schedule was intense with Kate playing four matches in two days to reach the semi-finals on day three and the finals on the fourth day.

The championships themselves came following the disappointing cancellation of the Australian Rules World Cup (held every three years) due to COVID, which Kate had been selected to play in.

While it is a great honour to represent England and Great Britain, where she gets to play alongside players she normally plays against, the game is not professional outside of Australia, meaning that Kate and her team mates have to cover their own expenses to travel and play.

Of course, we would like to congratulate Kate on her amazing achievement, but what is it about Australian Rules football that got her hooked?

Kate revealed that, because Australian Rules is relatively small sport outside of Australia, there is a tight knit community of players and a great social aspect to the sport.

While sport takes her away from the more cerebral challenges of her work at TWI as well as providing physical exercise, Kate recognised that it may have helped her develop team-building skills that have transferred to her engineering career too.

As for Australian Rules football, for anyone who is unfamiliar with the sport, Kate’s advice is simple, “Give it a watch” adding, “you will enjoy it.”

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