Manly United’s promising young striker Nicole Stuart has had a great season soaking up the knowledge of her W-League teammates and is looking forward to returning to the encouraging environment when football returns post-lockdown.
The northern beaches side had a slow start to the season but we’re starting to find their form just before the lockdown break.
“I think we’ve been a little bit unlucky this season,” Stuart explained.
“I think towards the back end of the season we were starting to get out groove back and were starting to play well and play together.
“So that’s been a bit unfortunate that the season has come to a halt when we were getting on the right track.”
The challenge of playing in the NPL NSW Women’s competition has been eased by the wealth of knowledge and experience of the players around her.
“It’s been good, I think I’m sort of settling into my position within the team.
“Getting to train alongside such great players like Remy and Cassidy and all the W-League players, it’s really helped me improve my game.
“The environment we’re in is a lot more a lot more intense, but in a good way where it helps you grow.”
While the lockdown has stopped Stuart from being able to train with her teammates, the 23-year-old is working hard to stay fit and keep following her fitness program.
“It’s a little tough, but I’m definitely trying to stay fit.
“We get a fitness program every week from our physio and coach, and they obviously adapt to whatever the restrictions are.
“Previously when you were allowed to exercise with more people it was a little different but now it’s just on your own and doing gym work where you can.
“We are able to talk to our physio as well if we have any problems and they’re always available to chat, our coaches as well.
“Running around the block is just not the same as running at training, so it’s a little tougher, but you’ve got to get it done, and hopefully it’s not for much longer, then we can be back out training with everyone.”
In the meantime, Stuart is keeping in touch with her teammates through messaging and video chat.
“Some of my best friends in the team with me so I’m on FaceTime with them every day.
“Nothing changes – if we can’t see each other in person, we’re seeing each other over the phone.
“We’re all really good friends and everyone just stays in touch with each other anyway.”
With plenty of time and potential left in her football career, Stuart is eager to get back onto the pitch and work to reach some goals for herself and her team.
“In my personal game, I just want to keep growing my confidence on the pitch and improving as a player.
“With the team, when we went into lockdown we were at a really good spot, and it would be nice to see us get some wins for the back end of the season and maybe work our way up the table.”
-By Madeline Riley