It’s the halfway stage of both the National Women’s League and ITBOTN’s inaugural foray into podcasting – The Return Fixture!
This is a great milestone – chiefly because in every other year that has gone before, this would mark the end of the competition. That we still have a second round to look forward to is something that I suspect everyone involved in the league is still pinching themselves over.
And to a much lesser degree, it means that the podcast has now reached the point where we have interviewed a player from each of the seven federations. For me, the interviews have been the absolute highlight of this project.
Yes, the banter has been fun. Yes, chewing over some of the topical issues in the New Zealand women’s game has been interesting. And yes, getting kicked around for my terrible predictions has been a price I have been willing to pay in the service of making Ella and Helena look good. But the interviews have been special because not only has it been a chance to learn so much more about the players than the usual PR fare such as which EPL team they support and what their favourite colour is, but it’s also an opportunity for them to have a voice.
Over Christmas I plan to spend some time typing up transcripts of some of the more interesting ones and posting them as standalone written pieces – because I think they will have a longer shelf life that way – but in the meantime I thought it might be worthwhile to share all the answers so far to the one question in common that we’ve asked of all seven players to date – “what’s your football origin story”.
Because it’s always good to know how people, albeit at the elite level in this case, fell in love with football. If we identify the common elements to their stories, along with the differences, maybe we can use them to attract and retain more people in the game. Or maybe it’s just interesting for its own sake!
I make no value judgements about any of the below. I simply present the stories, in the order we recorded them, for you to draw your own conclusions from.
Malia Steinmetz – Northern Lights
“I played at Three Kings when I was younger and I just knew that I loved playing football so I was like “I may as well stick with this” – I didn’t know what else I wanted to do with my life! All of a sudden I got put into the Northern team when I was 14, so I was kind of young and that was my first taste of intense football in a women’s league. I loved it.”
Mikaela Hunt – Southern United
“I started playing when I was about ten years old. Some of my friends were playing a five a side summer soccer thing on a Friday and we were just playing in an all girls team. I went along and had some fun with them and discovered I really liked it so I quit netball, much to my family’s disgust, and started playing football. I started playing in the Capital FTC teams when I was 12-13 and was playing for Upper Hutt. I was really lucky to have such a good club that’s got such a good junior and senior environment.”
Jade Parris – Auckland
“MAGS was the massive stepping stone for me, having Paul Marshall as a coach and obviously the players around me were incredible, so that was a five year stint during which I think we just got better and better. So yeah, that was massive for my football journey I think.”
Annalie Longo – Canterbury United Pride
“I started when I was about four or five years old. I have two older brothers that played football so I used to go down to the park and watch them. I always asked dad to have a kick around with me on the sideline and I think they got sick of me tugging on their shirt so they thought they would enrol me. They put me into Three Kings United and WYNRS with Wynton Rufer and I fell in love with it and wanted to play all the time. They bought me a football goal that we put in the backyard. I used to go out and play all hours. Ten fifteen years later I’ve managed to travel the world! It’s a fantastic game.”
Sarah Gregorius – Capital
“I was a late bloomer. I was maybe 11 or 12 years old when I was first introduced to football, through a friend. I really enjoyed it. I really fell in love with the team aspect. I’ve got two brothers and so I was very competitive because every meal is a fight! Playing with the boys and just having some really amazing people around me. My junior club, Upper Hutt City had some brilliant people who recognized that I was reasonably talented and did a lot to look after me and obviously my parents were a huge part of that support network. I’ve got no secrets or special academies that I joined. My parents are totally not athletic or sporty in any sense so I just loved it and I think that just meant I pushed myself and practiced a lot and it paid off in the long run.”
Tiana Hill – WaiBOP
“I started football at five. I’ve got two brothers so I just aspired to be able to push them around and it grew from there. Mum wanted me to do ballet but dad kept me going in football so pretty lucky there! I played at Otumoetai Football and have been playing there for most of my life, the school college team is still involved with Otumoetai Football so it’s cool to still be a part of my home club. [My brothers] are pretty proud of me so it’s cool to have their support as well.”
Jenna Barry – Central
“I started when I was five and have carried on ever since. When you’re five years old you try everything out and football stuck for me because Dad had played so he encouraged it a lot and I liked that it was generally a boys sport, it was male dominated, and I liked to give them a run for their money and push them around a bit! When I realised that maybe I was OK, a little bit decent, I carried on playing!”
Categories: NZ Women's National League
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.