Isabella Giovinazzo’s Playing For Keeps journey took on a life of its own

“I’ve joined an AFL team!”

By Maddison Hockey
Behind every great footballer is an even greater woman – at least, that's the case in AFL-based drama Playing For Keeps.
Simply put, it's a show about the wives and girlfriends of the football code's star players. But things are never simple, and neither are the characters and their complex lives.
Her co-stars may have had to brush up on their AFL jargon or fit in some research before signing on to the show, but Isabella Giovinazzo's preparation was a whole other ball game.
With her character Jessie being the only WAG who is also a footballer herself, Isabella had to learn to play for real.
"I had no sporting experience whatsoever," Isabella, 29, tells TV WEEK. "Most people can build on having played netball or basketball, but I played nothing – it's not in my body to catch and kick."
The girls are back together!
But what the Melbourne-born actress lacked in sporting experience, she made up for in determination.
"I'd been training for weeks with Russell Robertson [a former AFL player] to get ready for it [her role in the show] ," Isabella says.
"A few weeks ago, he said, 'Bella, you've come so far – do you remember how weird you were in the beginning?'" she adds with a laugh.
As Isabella grew her skills on the field, her love of the sport blossomed – so much so, she plans to continue to play outside of the show.
"I've joined a local team," she says with excitement , then adds, "But I'll have to get in some practice."
Isabella has taken up AFL off screen, too.
Before Isabella was kicking goals on and off screen as Jessie, she got her big break in Home And Away as edgy musician Phoebe Nicholson.
Studying writing and directing at film school before switching to acting, Phoebe was not only a breakout gig for the actress, but a foundation for her future.
"I learnt to act on that show," she explains. "I made up a worksheet for myself with each scene, did extra classes, and basically made my own drama school."
Perhaps that's why Isabella hasn't ruled out a return to Summer Bay.
"Maybe, in some time," the actress teases.
Playing For Keeps airs Wednesday, 8.30pm, on 10.

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