Caitlin Wendland says she it was a big surprise to be signed by Port Adelaide. Image: Brooke Bowering.

WHEN Port Adelaide List Manager Naomi Maidment strolled into the changeroom at Elizabeth Oval last Thursday and told Caitlin Wendland and her Central District teammates that she’d been signed as a replacement player for the Power, there were only two people more surprised than Wendland herself.

A triplet, Wendland’s sisters Kasey and Jessica were sitting beside her with no idea that their sister was going to get a chance to reignite her AFLW dream.

Wendland didn’t know either, though she was hopeful another opportunity would arise. After spending time at Alberton as a train-on player in 2023, she was signed as an injury replacement player by the Brisbane Lions, going on to play three games for the eventual AFLW premier last season, before being released back to Central.

It was a hard pill to swallow for the 19-year-old, but she took it in her stride and set about putting in the work to get a second chance.


“You're always going to be a bit flat (when you don’t get another contract) but I knew it wasn't the end,” Wendland told portadelaidefc after Maidment’s surprise visit.

“I knew if I could go back home, go back to the SANFLW again, work hard and play good footy maybe another opportunity would come.

“I just focused on improving and doing all the right things.

“But I did not have any idea (Port Adelaide was interested). It definitely took me by surprise.”

Wendland’s Mum and Dad – a Port supporter who brought the family to games - and her younger brother, were incredibly proud of her when she facetimed them and broke the news that she’d been signed by the club by revealing the Port Adelaide guernsey she was wearing under her jacket.

But nobody was more supportive than her sisters Kasey and Jessica.

The triplets are as close as they are competitive, and the talented trio were beaming on the night.

Caitlin with her sisters Kasey and Jessica. Image: Brooke Bowering.

“We’re very competitive,” Wendland said. “We've always got to find a way to kind of one up each other here and there, but we are also quite supportive of each other.

“They were super pumped and really happy for me, and as much as they want to be doing the same thing, they're super excited.

“They couldn't be happier.”

The noise in the changeroom when Wendland was asked to come forward and accept her Port Adelaide guernsey was deafening, such was the joy from her Bulldogs teammates.

It was a bittersweet moment for both player and club, with both realising the classy left-footed forward-midfielder had played her final game for the season with Central sitting nicely in third on the ladder after 10 games.

“To have (my teamamtes) there and be part of it, it's definitely a very, very special moment that I won't forget,” Wendland said.

“I’m so grateful to Central obviously, after nearly four years playing there. Hopefully I can repay them.”

Wendland’s rise into the AFLW system has come quickly. A talented junior cricketer who represented South Australia, she only took up football in 2020.

“When you're playing cricket, there weren’t really many opportunities for footy but me and my sisters, as young kids, would kick the footy around or play with the boys at school at recess and lunch time,” Wendland explained.

“So, we played cricket for a few years and were lucky enough to play some state cricket.

“And then when we saw Centrals had an open trial for women's footy and they were starting to get the SANFLW competition off and about, we thought ‘Yeah, why not give it a go?’ And luckily, we got in.

“I worked my way towards making my league debut and haven't looked back since.”

Wendland is now hoping her rise with Port Adelaide will be just as meteoric.

The club’s new number 11 will join her Power teammates officially when they return for pre-season training on June 3.