How Aussie-Thai beauty Salinee Jayne Caldwell, a natural athlete, took on one of the world’s toughest sporting challenges and became a model player in the rough and tumble of American women’s football.
By Colin Hastings
AT school and university in Australia, Salinee Jayne Caldwell was an outstanding athlete, excelling at sprinting, long jump, badminton, volleyball, swimming and rugby. A sporting future beckoned.
And so it turned out, though her most recent accomplishment in one of the world’s toughest sports far from home has surprised even her closest friends and family members.
During the past three years, this Thai-Australian beauty has been a stand-out success story in the United States, playing quarterback for Chicago Bliss, a top American women’s football team and helping them win the Legends League Championship earlier this year.
Recognised as the league’s best running quarterback who uses her size and power to break tackles, Jayne holds the record for the longest rushing touchdown – 49 yards.
“From the first grade at school, Jayne was always the best sports player in the class,” says proud Aussie father Shane Caldwell.
“But taking up American football really came out of the blue. That said, she’s someone who’s always looking for new challenges, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised,” adds long-term Bangkok expatriate Shane, whose lifetime love of sport, both as a player and fan of rugby league, has clearly had an influence on his daughter.
Born in Bangkok, Jayne moved to Australia aged three, returning every year to visit her Thai family. Her sporting prowess, as noted by Shane, shone through almost immediately, with a love for running and jumping in her earliest days at school. Later, she went on to compete in state championships at 100m and 200m sprints as well as long jump.
Thanks to a powerful physique, natural athleticism and above average height at 172cm, Jayne was ideally suited for six-a-side touch rugby, which she took up at the age of 16. It’s probably no coincidence that her team was unbeaten for two years.
Jayne’s appetite for new sporting challenges grew while attending Brisbane State High School, where she was introduced to volleyball and badminton, excelling at both.
But it was at university that she discovered American football, also known as Gridiron. Her experience of rugby made the switch to this new code relatively easy, and Jayne quickly became an important member of the Brisbane Panthers.
By coincidence, promoters for the American-based Legends Football League (LFL) were in Australia to launch an all-women’s league. Jayne, who had already displayed considerable talent as a wide receiver and corner back, was duly recruited by the Queensland Brigade to take on the laymaker role of quarterback against teams from New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.
It wasn’t game over for Jayne, though. Her strong throwing arm, developed during her time as a volleyball player, together with a natural tactical flair had caught the eyes of several American coaches and she was offered contracts to play quarterback for women’s teams in Omaha, Los Angeles and Atlanta. She chose the latter and joined the Atlanta Steam.
Although technically still at university in Australia, she was allowed to continue her studies via on online course. “It was with Atlanta Steam that I really learned the game,” says Jayne.
“For the next season, the Los Angeles Temptations offered me a starting position, which I hadn’t had at Atlanta, so I moved there. Our team won three games and lost one.
“For my third and fourth seasons, I moved to Chicago under Keith Hac, who’s reckoned to be the best coach in American football. In the first year, playing in front of crowds of up to 4,000, our team Chicago Bliss lost in the final – but the following year we were unbeaten and won the championship.
“That gave me great pleasure because on the league commentators had said before the competition started that I wasn’t a championship quarterback. Proving everyone wrong was the best feeling ever.
“Playing quarterback is more cerebral, not physical,” adds this extremely friendly and intelligent young lady in answer to her critics.
Predictably, Jayne has had her share of injuries in the past few years.
“Both my knees have been reconstructed – once from playing touch footy, the other from a fall caused by stepping awkwardly into a divot. The surgery clearly worked well, as my ‘new’ knees are now stronger than before.
“I’ve also had a lot of bruises. Games are played indoors on turf overlaid on concrete, so tackles can hurt. I’ve been concussed twice and had contusion to my elbow.”
Jayne’s stunning good looks have also attracted the attention of modelling agencies in the US. She’s appeared regularly in advertisements for swimwear, clothing and health foods, and has more than 40,000 Instagram followers (@jaynecaldwell_).
The new season of women’s football in the US resumes in April next year. For all her love of the game she has excelled in, Jayne comments wryly:
“There’s no money in sport for women, unless you’re Serena Williams.”
For now, Jayne is basing herself in Thailand. “I’m looking for opportunities in modelling, fitness, or as an influencer for Thai brands and to take them back to the US. And I also want to reconnect with my Thai roots.”
Given her successes in life to date, it won’t be long before Jayne is on to another winner.