NSW’s top tier women’s competition kicks off its 2019 season this weekend and Macarthur Rams Captain Renee Rollason wants to go back-to-back, with the defending champions taking on Manly United at Cromer Park on Sunday.
This season’s Rams look slightly different to last, after losing stalwart midfielder Teresa Polias and last season’s leading goal scorer Georgia Yeoman-Dale, but they have also welcomed some exciting new faces in Canberra United’s Tash Prior and Nikola Orgill.
“Pre-season training has definitely been a hard one, as the majority of our players are coming back from their season at the W-League and have needed time to rest, which Norm (coach Norman Boardman) has allowed,” the veteran said.
“But for those of us who could, we’ve been training with the reserves to get something under our belt.”
Despite the changes in their line-up, the affectionately known ‘Rollo’ believes the Rams have got a mix of experience and young guns to take them to the top for a second season.
“For us personally, we’ve played together for several years so know each other quite well,” she said.
“We always get labelled, ‘the old girls,’ which we are, but we have all played together at high levels, which is an advantage.
“Having the likes of Rosie Galea, Sham Khamis, Liz Ralston, Nikola Orgill and Tash Prior as our youth gives us a good mix, which makes us very competitive,” she continued.
“I’m especially excited to watch Rosie, she’s come off the back of a great W-League season with Canberra United and is looking really good! She’s full of confidence, so watch this space!”
Rollason has dedicated over a decade to the game, but her work extends beyond her defensive prowess on the pitch.
“Giving back to the game is really important to me, and my role at Football NSW really enables me to do that,” she said.
“My role is ‘Game Development’ within schools. I run a futsal competition across 13 regions with over 10,000 primary and high school students in NSW,” she said.
“I am also the Assistant Coach for the under 15’s Football NSW Institute Team.”
Most would find juggling the role of career woman, mum and elite footballer difficult to master, but Rollason says the support of her club and her family makes wanting to ‘do it all’ that much more achievable.
“It’s so important to have that support from our clubs. Unfortunately, women in sport don’t get paid the same way men do, so having your club behind you makes it that little bit easier.
“Also, when you have the support both Kylie (Ledbrook) and I have from our family and friends, anything is possible and it’s an added bonus that our kids love coming to watch.
“Don’t get me wrong it’s exhausting but playing doesn’t last forever, so you need to make the most of it while you can.”
Originally from Bega, Rollason made her youth debut in 2004 when she played for the NSW Sapphires, before joining the W-League in 2008 playing for both the Central Coast Mariner and Sydney FC until 2016.
She also represented the Matildas on eight occasions and has seen some major changes over the years.
“Compared to this time ten years ago, there has been a massive improvement in the women’s game,” she said.
“A lot of work and time that is put in to the game goes unnoticed, but I personally think people like Staj (Alen Stajcic) had a huge involvement in getting it to where it is now.
“Under him, the Matildas were able to reach the highest ranking an Australian national team had ever achieved.
“The players involved now are such great models, they work so hard to promote the game and I believe that has been so important.”
As for her hopes for the future of female football, she says she wants to see more invested in the next generation.
“I hope that as time goes on, we can invest more in the younger generation to develop and improve the future of the game,” she said.
“That could lead to the women’s game becoming fully professional in Australia, with the W-League having full home and away rounds.”
As for her advice on how we, as a football community, can achieve that, it’s simple.
“Just support a team and get to the games!”
-By Liana Buratti