Born in an Aussie-rules centric town – playing football at the highest level was the furthest thing from Lydia Williams’ mind growing up.
Her career spans nearly 15 years, falling in love with the game after moving from Katanning, Western Australia to Canberra – where her first exposure to football came after attending matches during the 2000 Olympics – winning every piece of silverware Australian football has to offer.
But it is this next step which Williams is perhaps most passionate about.
A pioneer for Indigenous footballers, the 31-year-old is calling for a greater emphasis in reaching out and introducing the game to indigenous communities – home to players with a abilities “you can’t really teach.”
“A lot of indigenous kids have that x-factor you can’t really teach,” she said.
“I think once they get that love of the sport it comes out in different ways and I think football is losing that race a little bit, finding those x-factor athletes. It’s certainly a priority for [the FFA] it’s certainly been spoken about, so it’s a matter of going out and doing it.
“It’s just creating relationships. You can’t just go out there and say ‘hey come trial here’ you have to put in the time and effort and I think that’s something that has to begin now and then down the track you’ll see it bear fruits.
“Growing up in the outback in WA I didn’t know anything about football it was footy. West Coast Eagles came out to my town a lot so I got to be around a lot of AFL and it wasn’t until I went to Canberra where there’s no AFL where I actually started football.
“I think it’s about creating programs in indigenous areas and giving that exposure to the game because it has so much potential. You get to travel the world and get to go diff places that AFL and rugby don’t tend to do.”
This week is National Indigenous Recognition round in the W-League, with Melbourne City playing its final home game of the season against Brisbane Roar.
For Williams, the round offers the opportunity to be part of an “amazing” experience and hopes more can be done towards celebrating indigenous culture.
“To go out there and do welcome to country and have that as a recognition is amazing,” she said.
“The fact that clubs are starting to do that now is incredible and I think we need to start getting that into our national curriculum and hopefully down the track we’ll have a[n indigenous] jersey. Every other sport has a jersey that recognises indigenous round and that will be really exciting if it got to that.”
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