In the second of our special features for our charity partners John Moriarty Football’s Indigenous Football Week, Ben Gilby profiles Jada Whyman, Sydney FC’s young and highly talented goalkeeper who is a fabulous role model for female indigenous Australian football players.
Above: Jada Whyman training with the Matildas during the October international window this year. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.
Jada Whyman is one of those players who seems to have been around for a long time, yet she has just turned 22 years-old and is once more pushing for a place in the Australian national squad.
With ancestry from the Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta (also known as Jotijota) indigenous peoples and with West Coast Eagles Aussie Rules legend David Wirrpanda as an uncle and godfather, Whyman grew up in Wagga Wagga, which is located 284 miles from Sydney, and became a goalkeeping star from a young age.
She began playing football at the age of ten and within a year was selected for the New South Wales Country team. At the age of just 13, Jada was selected for the Young Matildas for the 2013 Asian Under 16 Women’s Championships. Also in this squad were current stars Sunny Franco, Rhianna Pollicina, Georgina Worth, Teagan Micah, Isabel Dalton, Angie Beard, and Alex Chidiac.
Two years later, Whyman played for Australia’s U20 side at the Asian U19 Women’s Championships in China before being selected for the main Matildas squad in 2018 for friendlies in France and England.
The level at which the young goalkeeper was now playing meant many hours travelling from her Wagga Wagga home to play in the NSW NPL with Macarthur Rams – a round trip of over five hundred miles each week. In addition, she was also spending time in Canberra being mentored by the Matildas goalkeeping coach Paul Jones at his Academy.
This was an exceptionally tough time for the whole family which also led to them having to spend some time camping in a tent, a period which Jada now identifies as a period that helped to make her stronger personally. Eventually, the Whyman’s made the move to Sydney which enabled Jada to attend Westfields Sports High School – which served as the pilot for the then FFA’s High-Performance Football School Program.
Whilst at Macarthur Rams, Jada was voted as Goalkeeper of the Year in 2015, 2016, and 2018.
In 2016, Whyman was offered her first W-League contract with Western Sydney Wanderers. At the time, she told Rebecca First of the local ‘Leader’ newspaper: “It will probably be scary, but pretty awesome at the same time. What I am most excited about is playing against Lydia Williams (now of Arsenal), she’s one of my biggest inspirations in goal.”
That inspiration comes from Williams not just being an outstanding goalkeeper, but also as a fellow indigenous Australian. “I was watching TV when a story about Lydia came on, it stated how she was indigenous and a goalkeeper also…I was instantly filled with enjoyment as I watched her,” Whyman told Ann Odong in 2016.
Her first season in the W-League with Western Sydney Wanderers started with a bang in the big derby against Sydney FC. That campaign saw Jada make seven appearances before suffering the agony of a torn thigh against Newcastle Jets which ended her season.
Whyman came back and played a further twenty-eight games for Western Sydney Wanderers over the following four seasons and suffered injury heartbreak once more, with a long-term knee injury before joining Sydney FC for the 2021 campaign.
The 22-year-old is aware of her status as a role model to young indigenous Australians. “Seeing what indigenous athletes have done, like a long time ago Cathy Freeman, now Jade North and Lydia Williams, Kyah Simon as well, players like that show me that my dream can come true and hopefully what I do can help other kids;” she said in 2018.
Jada has subsequently become involved with Impetus’ charity partners John Moriarty Football, an organization that is dedicated to helping young indigenous Australian footballers. Additionally, the young goalkeeper also does volunteer youth work for Glebe Youth Service who support young indigenous Australians in remote communities.
Whyman had a good season with Sydney FC in the 2020/21 W-League campaign which was capped off with a superb personal performance in the highly dramatic Grand Final against Melbourne Victory which earned her the player of the match award. The game itself ended in heartbreak for the goalkeeper and her New South Wales teammates at the very end, but since then, the Wagga Wagga-born star has had a recall to the Matildas squad for the second of October’s friendlies with Brazil. With a strong start to the new A-League Women campaign for her team, a place in the Asia Cup squad is not out of the question.