In the latest of our series of WA On Wednesday interviews, Perth SC’s attacking midfielder Abbey Meakins, who is one of the most dangerous offensive players in the Western Australian NPL, spoke to Impetus’ Ben Gilby about her footballing journey, life at Perth SC and her club’s positive start to this season (8/6/22).
Above: Abbey Meakins (left) gets in a challenge for Perth SC at Balcatta Etna this season. Photo: Rob Lizzi.
Abbey Meakins is a hugely talented footballer, who describes herself as “a creative and attacking midfielder, who is looking to bring everyone into the game.” However, like many others in Western Australia, it was Aussie Rules rather than the round ball game that she turned to first.
“I started playing Auskick (junior version of the sport) when I was around the age of six until I was 10, then my parents made me switch to soccer as I was too small to keep playing with the boys!” Abbey smiled.
Her favourite sports stars growing up were therefore initially AFL players. “I never really watched much football growing up, but I did watch a lot of AFL. Fremantle Dockers players such as Matthew Pavlich and Nat Fyfe were my sporting idols when I was younger.
Once Meakins begun playing football, she did not look back, as she explained. “I played at my local club at Wembley Downs for a few seasons with my school friends whilst playing in various Western Australian (WA) state teams. I then joined Perth SC to play boys premier league in U13’s under Bruno Marrochi where we went undefeated that season, playing alongside many current Perth Glory players.
“For the next six or so seasons I played for the 15’s and 19’s NTC teams, representing WA at many NTC challenges and then joined the Perth Glory Women’s squad in 2016 until 2019.”
Meakins’ time at the Glory coincided with that of arguably the greatest footballer that Western Australia has ever produced. “To train and play alongside Sam Kerr, one of the best players in the world was such a good experience, and she is absolutely killing it over in England now.
“Once I reached the age limit for NTC, I joined Balcatta for a very short stint as I tore my ACL in the second night series game. I then joined Perth SC in 2020 for their inaugural season in the NPLW and am still at the club today.
“Since playing for Perth SC in juniors, I always wanted to come back and play for them once they had a NPLW team. The club is so supportive of the women’s game and we have a great home ground to play at. Most importantly, our team has such a good culture and I love playing with every single one of the girls.”
Meakins mentioned earlier her ACL injury. It was a tough period both on and off the pitch.
“It definitely was my biggest challenge as a footballer. I had just finished the 2018/19 season with Perth Glory and felt I was at peak fitness and form. Unfortunately, I was tackled in the second night series game and I would spend the next 15 months rehabbing to get back to playing.
“The process was long, and could be quite lonely at times, however I took it as an opportunity to step away from the game and spend more time with my family and friends. With NTC and Glory taking up the majority of my time the previous seven or eight years, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, giving me a mental break to focus on my university studies and taking trips overseas with friends. It did give me a different perspective on life, making me more resilient and that football isn’t everything as an injury can turn your career in a second.”
Last season saw Perth SC get into the final of the season-ending Top Four Cup, which Meakins reflects was an excellent achievement amidst difficult circumstances for the Dorrien Gardens-based club.
“Last season was very inconsistent compared to our first year in NPLW. However, we had a lot of injuries throughout the year, and barely 11 players available most weeks, so we did well to make it to the final.
“Last season we played really direct, and didn’t utilise our midfield enough, so that has been a big focal point for us this year. We have looked to keep the ball for longer periods, utilise our midfield and create attacking plays that way, rather than going direct and long.”
At the present time, Perth SC are battling it out with Fremantle City for second place in the ladder, and have taken plaudits for their defensive set up and quality attacking play.
“I think we have had a really good start to the year,” admitted Meakins, “We have completely changed the way we play with Peter Rakic coming in as our new coach, and have had a massive change of personnel. We are improving each week, and are looking to get a few players back over the next few weeks which is exciting.
“Personally, I think I have had a good start to the year. I feel like I am able to get on the ball a lot more this year than previous seasons, and am looking to score more, however, there are still lots of improvement to go.”
This season’s NPLW in Western Australia sees Perth RedStar top of the table by 10 points having won every game so far. The Azzurri midfielder assessed the leaders’ qualities but also sees hope for her own team when they come up against RedStar.
“We know Perth RedStar are very clinical in front of goal and quick to get in behind defences. We have only conceded a few goals this season, so we need to continue to be switched on defensively and stop their attacks before they get in behind.
“Going forward, we need to continue to play the way we want to play, which I think will allow us to have success against any team in the league.”
Whilst there are a lot of roster changes across the eight clubs this season, Meakins believes that the competition is now able to offer young players a competitive baptism into the game.
“There are a lot of great young players coming up through NTC, teams like Murdoch and in the reserves teams, who are now gaining experience in the top league, when they may not have, had they still had all of their previous players. The competition is starting to even out, where any week you can be facing a team that is capable of winning.”
With previous experience at Perth Glory, Meakins isn’t totally ruling out a potential return to a purple shirt, but the time needs to be right for her off the pitch too, as she explained.
“I was asked to come back to Glory training the season after I recovered from my ACL injury. I was just finishing my undergraduate university degree and wasn’t sure where I would be working or if I would be starting my masters degree, therefore I had to say no as my career outside of football had to take top priority.
“At the moment, I am happy playing in the NPLW and focusing on my career outside of football, currently studying a masters degree with a new full time graduate job. In the future things may change and looking for a new ALW contract may be on the cards.”