Elise wears: Champagne delight ring $260, Graduating necklet $2955, Starlight earring $85 from Secrets
While most footy WAGs were gearing up for next Monday’s Brownlow Medal extravaganza, Elise Swallow was quietly training for her first marathon.
Two weeks out from football’s night of nights, the wife of dashing North Melbourne captain Andrew Swallow was pounding the pavement to prepare for the September 16 Sydney Marathon, allowing herself just over a week to recover before slipping into a gorgeous designer gown.
Elise is far from the stereotypical – and increasingly mythical – superficial WAG. She’s blonde, beautiful, smart and nice, determined to live her own life and set a good example for those who follow her into the AFL spotlight.
At just 26, a year older than her husband, she runs a speech-pathology business, supports Andrew’s career and has spent months reaching peak fitness for the marathon. “I thought ‘why not, give it a crack’. I trained for triathlons in Perth. I was kind of ready for another challenge.”
Andrew and Elise Swallow grew up in Western Australia and attended the same school, Rehoboth Christian College in suburban Perth. They started dating when Elise had finished school and Andrew was in year 12.
The handsome young midfielder was certainly a catch – “every girl liked
him” – but he and Elise bonded and soon became inseparable.
Both loved their sport. Elise had three brothers, was a state butterfly swimming champion and competed in triathlons, while Andrew excelled on the footy field. The competitive spirit even extended to their year 12 scores.
“I beat him by three,” Elise says. “I got 95 and he got 92. He claimed he had to focus on footy. I just claimed I studied harder.”
She studied speech pathology at Curtin University in Perth with Carlton captain Chris Judd’s wife Rebecca. Both met their partners before they started and remain friends. The course is difficult and only 36 applicants were accepted each year.
Just 18 months after finishing, Elise founded her own speech-pathology business, The Voice Within, which now employs two others. She also works with Jacinta McMahon at Learning Fundamentals. “At the moment I’m working pretty hard,” she says. Andrew is studying accounting and bank finance.
The Swallows married in December 2007, a year after Andrew played his first game for North. He was just 21 and became captain at 24. Despite being a leader and high achiever from a young age, some people still questioned why a smart girl like her would “marry a footballer”.
“I would just say to them ‘you don’t know Andrew,” she says. “It’s just a stereotype. I think it’s so good to get that message out there because they are such powerful role models.”
Modern life is full-on, especially with your husband in the AFL pressure cooker. As committed Christians, the Swallows find an escape and some meaning by attending Planetshakers City Church. Elise says it gives them perspective and keeps them grounded.
Planetshakers has 8000 members who flock to its Dallas Brooks Centre services, which feature live music and modern messages. “I’ve never known a boring aspect of it,” Elise says. “We’ve only ever had positive experiences through the church. There’s a big band and the messages that they preach are really inspiring and supportive.
“It takes your eyes off yourself a bit. It’s about loving God and loving the people. I love going every week. It gives you that real balance … it’s what you give and when you’re generous and what you do for others that matters.”
Elise at least partly credits her husband’s Christianity for his football success. His courage in leading the life he wants is reflected in his on-field leadership. “Everyone who meets Andrew thinks he’s very mature and very responsible. That’s why he always loves team sports.”
Their faith and education have helped set both up for success. When Andrew was drafted in 2005, Elise was excited but slightly apprehensive. She had heard all the stories about catty WAGs with IQs to match their shoe size. But she was pleasantly surprised.
Elise found that most were just “normal people living normal lives” and like her were determined not to disappear into their partner’s shadow. She now advises the new girls to be themselves.
“It’s not about what you wear and who you’re seen with,” she says. “It’s about who you are as a person.”
Having said that, like most women, Elise loves frocking up for the Brownlow. Her first was “daunting”, but last year she was more relaxed in a stunning ruffled red Arthur Galan gown and this year plans to wear Alin Lé Kal. While finalising her outfit, she tried on some gorgeous sparklers by Australia’s own Secrets jeweller.
It doesn’t happen often in her busy schedule, but Elise is like most girls who do like to glam it up occasionally and show off the best our local clothing and jewellery designers have to offer.
“You do feel really honoured and really blessed and you feel like a princess,” she says.