By Liam Nash | Riverine Herald
Legendary NFL quarterback Tom Brady has seven Super Bowl rings, but he’s never come close to a Goulburn Valley League flag.
Stanhope’s Heather Marini has; her track record includes the 2006 A-grade netball title with Kyabram.
Perhaps the two will trade premiership war stories at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers off-season camp, where Marini (nee Buzza) currently plies her trade in the quarterback coaching ranks after securing a Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellow.
The fellowship is a vocational tool to help minority coaches gain experience in the NFL, giving prospects weeks of experience mingling with the upper crust of American Football.
And, for Marini, is the culmination of 14 years of toil in the gridiron universe.
“It is something I have been working toward for a few years now and I’m so excited to finally make it a reality,” Marini said.
“I’ve had time to see how they operate, and for me, watching the greatest quarterback of all time up close and personal is a great experience.
“For me, it’s an opportunity to work with and learn from the quarterbacks here at Tampa Bay and an incredible mentor in coach Clyde.”
That’s Clyde Christenson, of NFL fame, who’s overseen not only Tom Brady, but also the all-conquering Manning brothers — Peyton and Eli — in years gone by.
Now Marini’s time with Christenson — and the greatest quarterback of all time — will largely be spent from an observation standpoint before returning to her usual post as quarterback coach at Brown University on August 19.
“For me now being at the Bucs, a lot of it is trying to learn and be open to the things they do which make them the very successful Super Bowl champions that they are,” Marini said.
“Right now I’m trying to get my head around the playbook and hopefully I can contribute more in the coming week.”
Marini joined Brown in 2019 as the Bears’ offensive quality control assistant coach, and it didn’t take long for her establishment to get the movers and shakers talking.
You’d only have to ask her parents.
“When I first got hired at Brown, Billie Jean King tweeted about my arrival. My parents rang me straightaway; I think that’s when they understood the gravity of the situation,” she said.
It can’t be all bluster if an International Tennis Hall of Famer takes notice.
Marini excelled at Brown, eventually earning a promotion to quarterbacks coach last year which made her the first female position coach in college football history.
Remarkably, that wasn’t her only avant-garde achievement in the sport.
Her step up in 2020 came eight years after she broke ground on the other side of the international date line as Australia’s first female head gridiron coach.
Introduced to the sport by her husband Kieren, Marini initially joined Warriors Gridiron Club, based at Monash University, as a medic five in 2007 before working her way to the top.
However, her story could have easily been slammed shut at the first page.
“The first game I ever went to, I thought it was the craziest sport I’d ever seen and I didn’t expect to go to any more games after that,” she said.
“As time went on though, football became the best part of every sport I’d grown up with all rolled into one.
“The agility you would see in netball, the tackles and speccys of Aussie rules, all those sorts of skills are applicable.
“I still do netball drills with my quarterbacks; their ability to move and react — it’s exactly the same.”
Marini clearly has the coaching nous to cut it at elite level.
But her talent does not stop there.
When the Stanhope product most recently traded the clipboard for pads and a helmet, she played in the 2021 Women’s Football Alliance National Championship final with Boston Renegades — and won it.
“Being at Brown and watching the guys run around made me want to get out there again and the stars aligned for me to play with the Renegades,” she said.
“I got to go on the field and punt in the national championship game and go a few runs at quarterback throughout the season. It was a really fun experience.”
Marini is readying to return to her post at Brown and, in doing so, she has added another experience to a rap sheet many would rhapsodise about.
It includes a WFA ring, a pair of history-making appointments as well as status as a visionary leader within the realm of gridiron.
All of that, and an A-grade flag with Kyabram.