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Life on the fringes: Emily Kenshole's W-League story

Cracking the W-League is no small feat. (AAP Image/Joe Castro)
Roar Guru
27th November, 2017
7

Geelong-born and bred football star Emily Kenshole has had a memorable 2017 season.

She was chosen as the WNPL goalkeeper of the year after an outstanding season for Geelong Galaxy United. She also saved a penalty against Matildas legend Lisa De Vanna in the dramatic WNPL grand final penalty shootout against South Melbourne in October.

The icing on the cake, though, was when she won a short-term contract with back-to-back W-League champions Melbourne City, a club that has taken female football in Australia to new heights. She made her debut in the season opener in Perth, and while things didn’t go according to plan that night, she finally hit the big time at the tender age of just 18.

Hours and hours of putting her body on the line has seen the teenager develop into one of the most promising young goalkeepers in the country in such a short space of time.

All of this is just reward for a young lady who has come on in leaps and bounds, having only become a full-time goalkeeper two years ago when Galaxy was formed.

Starting out at local club Bell Park as an outfield player and fill-in goalkeeper, she has climbed through the local system, made numerous sacrifices, worked hard and has finally cemented herself as Galaxy’s number one keeper. Her guardianship of the Galaxy goals was one of the key reasons the Torquay-based outfit made it through to their second consecutive grand final, finishing a penalty shot away from being crowned champions.

Her performances well and truly caught the attention of Melbourne City’s eagle-eyed recruiting team. She has spent the past month training with some of the best footballers in the world in the best football training facility in the country.

It all sounds so exciting, especially for a woman who’s so young. But while she is appreciative of the opportunities that have been presented to her, the youngster is facing the very same challenges that many female footballers around the country face due to the lack of recognition and funding available for the women’s game.

A three-and-a-half-hour round trip from her home in Grovedale to City’s home base in Bundoora four times a week for training plus a fifth trip for a matchday, sometimes interstate, can be draining and requires plenty of commitment. It makes it difficult to hold down a proper job or study further. It means time away from family and friends. It means missing out on the fun things other teenagers are getting up to in the exciting new world of adulthood.

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However, she is determined to tough it out, and even though she is now out of contract with City, she is still willing to go to training on her own time without any financial compensation so she can eventually live her dream of playing for the Matildas and becoming a full-time professional.

Admired and respected by teammates and opponents alike, one gets the feeling Emily Kenshole will one day achieve her dream. Most importantly, she won’t forget the road that took her there. The Geelong community should be proud it has produced such an inspiring young role model.

What were the highlights of your 2017 season with Galaxy?
“I believe the best thing was being selected as the WNPL goalkeeper of the year and making it to the grand final with the girls. It is such an honour and privilege being part of a fantastic team.”

What were the best parts of your four-week stint with Melbourne City?
“Being able to train alongside such big-name players was such a highlight. Learning from such quality players and coaches as well will help me with my future ambitions.”

Who were your favourite teammates in your time there?
“Ashley Hatch is definitely a favourite, such a quality player and generally so nice. And you can’t go past Steph Catley of course.”

What were the best memories of your away trips?
“It’s always good to travel away and play the sport you love. Perth was a long flight but a beautiful city. Perth was also very difficult as I made my debut. That was a memory I won’t forget.”

How did you get the news you were going to make your debut against Perth?
“I was literally told about five minutes before kick-off. Emily Shields broke her wrist in the last drill of the warm-up, which sent my nerves through the roof. I had no time to prepare – I just had to go out and do my best.”

What did you learn from your one and only W-League game in Perth?
“I learnt so much! When you’re thrown in the deep end you either sink or swim. I unfortunately sank. But I learnt from every mistake I made and it made me a better keeper and person for it. The opportunity outweighs everything else, and just being there to play alongside and against the greats was special.”

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How many days a week do you train and what happens with each session?
“Every week is different, but usually we train about four times per week. We arrive early and do our pre-activation and then head out to the training ground. We train for a couple of hours and then do a gym session after training.”

How many hours a week did you spend with Melbourne City?
“I can’t work out the exact figures, but I’d leave home at 8am and wouldn’t get back until around 3pm. Doing that four times a week is exhausting, but its the sacrifice you have to make.”

What are the biggest challenges training and playing with a W league squad?
“The pressure. There is so much pressure on you to perform and be your best. The work rate and intensity is definitely a challenge, but it only makes me better.”

Give us some examples of the sacrifices you have made in your four-week stint with City.
“I had to give up my normal job of being a trimmer. You constantly have to change appointments and you rarely get to spend time with friends. But all of this means I have to make the most of the time and opportunity I get.”

What do you think the W-League can do to make things easier for fringe players?
“Allow a bigger budget so players who are travelling further or need the extra money to cover the fact they aren’t working aren’t out of pocket.”

What’s the best thing about being at City?
“I think just being at a club that is so professional and training at a high level is the best thing. PK (Patrick Kisnorbo) is a quality coach, and it’s an opportunity you just have to take with both hands and learn from the best.”

What are the next steps for your career?
“I’ll have to see what happens and where this takes me. Soccer is my career and what I’ve always wanted, but it’s about working hard and taking the opportunities you’re given.”