When someone asks me who inspires you in football, it’s not as predictable as you’d think.
Everyone’s expecting me to say someone like Lucy Zelic, right? Well, yeah, of course. She’s played her part in being a huge impact on my life, the career path she’s inspired me to take as well as the cultural and family similarities. But someone else has caught my attention and made me go ‘wow, she is not your average girl’.
A young, 19 year old, proud Indigenous woman, who’s role is goalkeeper for the Western Sydney Wanderers womens team and who currently holds the number, 25, for the Matilda’s.
Where do I start? I first saw her gracing the football pitch at the age of 16 for the Western Sydney Wanderers and at such a young age, she was a brick wall. Focused and determined, you could see it written all over her face, she meant business. The way she would charge for the ball, reflexes as fast as lightning, was something so inspiring for me to watch.
Every game I ever watch, everyone else has their eyes on the ball, I have my eyes on the keepers, taking notes on their positioning, the way they move, stance, agility, strength and timing, and she is a keeper that never fails to entertain and surprise me.
I remember meeting her for the first time at my hometown NPL club, where the Wanderers NPL side were playing. Took me about 10 minutes to work up the courage to say a simple ‘Hello’, to someone who was younger than me, (in the end making an idiot out of myself, no doubt) but to who I thought was was an absolute inspiration.
As a teenager, I always stuck to the goalkeeping position myself, I chose the gloves instead of the glory of goals. I played mostly for fun, still had a few moments in high school for the school team in the early days, played a bit of park football in hopes of following through to NPL, didn’t work out due to injury, and we just didn’t have the money to be spending on sports, sadly. There was no career in football for a woman, according to everyone around me, so I took a step back, stayed away and passed that torch onto my talented younger brother.
Sometimes, I still wonder what would have been if I chose the ‘professional footballer’ path. Would I be playing for the Wanderers? Would I have been selected for the Matilda’s?
Who knows? But if there is one thing I do know, in a way I’m relieved that I didn’t take that path, because I would never have been able to compete with someone as good as her.
Having won awards left, right and centre is already a sign that she’s one of the best, winning the National Premier Leagues NSW Goalkeeper of the Year for both 2015 and 2016, W-league player of the year 2017, the Wanderers Medal 2017, the Rebel Role Model Award.
She’s an ambassador for ANZ stadium, is conducting youth clinics for the next generation of young players, along side the Western Sydney Wanderers, and so much more. But that’s not what made me go “WOW, INSPIRING, DOING SO MUCH AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE”…No. It was the story of how she got to where she is.
If you haven’t read her story, you better head over to Players Voice now and read it.
She has had a difficult and demanding journey.
From stepping into the footballing world by accident, both her family and herself coping abuse for her ethnicity, to being miles away from home and living in a Queanbeyan camping ground. Travelling from Wagga Wagga to Canberra, and from Canberra to Sydney for training and games, missing meals and braving the rain, and I don’t just mean the rain on the football pitch during stormy games…
Through the trials and tribulations she faces, an ‘all too familiar’ fear of failure began to set in, a feeling that it wasn’t worth putting everyone through the pain for this ‘dream’ in football…
But to have a family as supportive and to have a fighting spirit that is unbreakable as hers, to see it and read about it, it turned on a light in my own ‘dark room’ and I said to myself ‘Take notes from her. If she can pull through it all, so can you’.
19 years old and she’s already felt the sharp sting of what following your dreams can be like. Facing hell and high water, she is the eldest sibling, as well as the last fighting woman to stop an attack in the box, it’s like jumping in front of a bullet for her team, every single match.
She knows what her responsibilities are, and she carries them out well, on the field and in life. She has the dream to be starting for the Matilda’s regularly, and mark my words, it will happen very soon, as well as going further than ever with her career in club football…And if anybody can do it all, if anyone can take it, it’s her.
I never expected, in my 20 years of life, I would have a role model who is younger than me. We are all mainly expected to look up to people who are older, more experienced, somewhat stoic or jaded, and have been doing the job longer than us.
That’s not always the case. Not for me, anyway.