Skip to content


Sophie spent the 2019 AFL season juggling the demands of elite women's football with 14-hour shifts as a paramedic at Murray Bridge, an hour's drive east of Adelaide.

On the job, she would deal with car accidents, motorcycle crashes and a variety of medical emergencies such as heart attacks, seizures and strokes. On the field, she had a busy season for the Adelaide Crows, playing in all nine games and laying 30 tackles to go along with her 54 disposals.

The Crows made the AFLW Grand Final against Carlton, which was one of the most significant moments in the history of Australian women's sport. More than 53,000 fans swarmed into Adelaide Oval, a record for a women's domestic league sporting match in Australia.

When the Crows scored their first goal, Sophie was shocked.

"The crowd erupted and it was the loudest, most deafening sound I had ever heard," she recalls. "I felt very emotional, humbled and proud and it was an incredible moment."

After the Crows defeated Carlton, 63-18, Sophie was chaired off the ground and then serenaded by her teammates live on national television to celebrate her 31st birthday. 

It was a dream come true for Sophie, who had endured a tough debut year for Carlton in the AFLW in 2018, having experienced grand final success for Norwood in the inaugural SANFL Women's competition the year before where she gathered 23 disposals and voted best on ground against North Adelaide.

Sophie had been granted a release to Adelaide on compassionate grounds from Carlton after learning that her paramedic leave without pay would not be extended.

Sophie's father, Peter Li, arrived in Adelaide as a 17-year-old from Hong Kong and settled into high school and studied dentistry at university. He opened a practice and met Sophie's mother, Liz, who was a teacher originally from New Zealand.

Sophie's Chinese grandparents moved to Adelaide and provided her biggest connection to Chinese culture through family outings for hot pot, yum cha and Chinese sweet buns.

As a child, Sophie collected footy cards, watched AFL games on television and played kick-to-kick at school. But like many girls of her generation, she had also been told to focus on other sports because there were no footy teams for girls.

"I wanted to be a boy and take marks like Tony Modra," Li recalls, referring to the former Adelaide star who made 118 appearances for the club, kicking 440 goals.

Receiving her first Adelaide Crows uniform was a personal moment to savour. "It was so nice but also surreal," she says. "I never thought I would be wearing a Crows guernsey and training in The Shed."

After five games in 2020, Sophie decided to retire, unable to continue juggling full-time work with a footy career. "I was also conscious that at some point soon I wanted to start a family, so it was the logical step to retire on a high after winning a premiership."