Big brothers are good for some things. Just ask talented 13-year-old national soccer juniors Kelly Wilding and Ashley Irwin.
Because their brothers were already signed up to play football, the girls ended up spending most afternoons in their backyards learning tricks and dribbling from a young age.
This year both were selected for Football NSW’s elite squad — the Under 13-16 Institute program — the most elite program in NSW for that age group. They won the U13 Youth Nationals for NSW and also represented NSW schools in Darwin in 2012 where the NSW PSSA (Public Schools Sporting Association) team came third. Ashley vice captained the Nationals Squad and was player of the match against Queensland. In a few years the girls hope to crack their soccer holy grail —the Young Matildas.
“Nicholas wanted to play soccer, he practised with Kelly and taught her all the tricks,” Mum, Borka Wilding, told the Gazette.
“He taught me how to dribble, do tricks, get past players and shoot hard,” the striker from Hazelbrook, who started playing at eight, added.
And Ashley from Blaxland reluctantly agreed her own brothers, Ben, 18, and Jayden, 15, had also toughened her up in the sport after taking it up when she was six. “I tried netball at school once but I couldn’t play it, I’d run with the ball and get fouled,” she said.
At Blaxland Redbacks she was often told not to be so “rough” with the boys.
“Ashley spent most of her time learning how to play soccer through various soccer academies and through FNSW junior development program,” Ashley’s mum, Kaylene Irwin, said.
The girls spent this year training three nights a week at Valentine Park in Glenwood in Sydney’s north-west. Irwin did the lion’s share of driving after Kelly’s mum was diagnosed with a rare debilitating disease which left her in hospital for five months. She remains in a wheelchair and is learning how to walk again.
“I booked myself out of hospital,” Borka Wilding said. “I didn’t see Kelly for months because she was always at training. But I was determined to get out (for the 2013 FFA National Youth Championships for Girls) in Coffs Harbour (in July),” the mother of six said.
Defender Ashley from Blaxland has been on Football NSW’s radar since age nine, but striker/midfielder Kelly of Hazelbrook only came to their attention last year.
Irwin says her daughter rarely sits still and, like Kelly has high hopes of making the Matildas one day. Football NSW (FNSW) women’s technical co-ordinator, Nadine Shiels, who was also the girls Nationals coach, said they were the only Mountains players to make the squad and were at “the elite” for their age group. “Ican’t predict at this point where they will end up in two to five years, however at this point in time they are at the elite for their age group in NSW and possibly Australia considering they won [at] nationals,” Shiels said.
During the off season the girls are keeping fit playing futsal. They will spend the next three weeks trialing to keep their positions in the NSW Institute’s team for next season.
“They know they face a lot of tough competition but as long as they still want to do it (we support them),” Irwin says. “They are very determined, and focused on excelling in their sport, they don’t like to lose.”