Brisbane Broncos player Amber Pilley has a self-imposed nickname – Catwoman – because she’s been a fan of the superhero for much of her life.
But when Amber was in school, a few classmates called her something else; ‘Mamber’, a combination of her name with ‘man’.
“They thought it was a joke, because I was a tomboy, and loved playing footy with the boys,” Amber tells Mamamia.
“It was really juvenile. I still remember it – but it never stopped me from loving sport.”
Far from being deterred, Amber, who had been playing footy with the boys in the schoolyard, finally asked her parents to sign her up for the local team, when she was just eight years old.
“I loved it,” Amber recalls. “I’d never played a sport quite like it.”
And the rest, as they say, is history. Amber has been an Indigenous All Star with the NRL since 2015, and is employed by the Brisbane Broncos not just as a player, but also for the Beyond the Broncos Girls Academy. It’s a natural fit, considering the 21-year-old’s background is in education.
“I work with Indigenous girls at Kingscliff State High School,” Amber explains of her current role. “We have a huge focus on attendance, which is so important. It’s a great opportunity for the girls to talk about and learn about their Indigenous heritage. In fact, I learn so much from them, too.”
Amber, who is a proud Wiradjuri woman, didn’t discover much about her heritage when she was younger, due to the reluctance of her elders to recall their historic traumas.
It was only after the passing of her grandparents did Amber’s non-Indigenous mother decide to discover more, for the sake of Amber and her younger sister.
This gap in her sense of identity in her childhood is something that Amber wants younger girls to avoid.
“I remember in one of my first All Star matches, I was told, ‘You’re not Aboriginal, you’re white’,” Amber shares.
“I’ve always wanted to know more about where I came from, and I encourage the girls at school to do the same.
“They shouldn’t feel ashamed, or embarrassed, of being themselves.
“I’m so proud of who I am, and I want them to feel uplifted like that, too.”
Amber certainly has a strong sense of identity these days, and it extends to how she sees herself as a sportsperson, and a young woman.