In the latest of our WA On Wednesday interviews featuring players from the NPL WA Women’s competition, Subiaco‘s Keziah Burgis talks to Impetus’ Ben Gilby about the tough first year for the club in the competition, her pride in her team’s continual growth, and the difficulties that women’s football needs to overcome in Western Australia (15/6/22).
Above: Keziah Burgis (left) – a key part of Subiaco’s growth in the NPL WA. Photo: Fotoenzo, supplied by Keziah Burgis.
Whilst Keziah Burgis has been a key part of the Subiaco team for several years now, she came to football quite late, as she explains.
“I was introduced to soccer in my last few years of high school. I did soccer as a subject to make friends and have a run around at school. I didn’t join a club until after I graduated high school. This will be my fifth year playing for a club, my fourth year at Subiaco, and my third year in the NPL.”
Keziah describes herself as “a very physical player. As a wingback, I love one on one challenges, where my strength and speed can be utilised. I compete in CrossFit during the off-season so I am always working on fitness and strength. Since being at Subiaco, I have been lucky to partake in additional technical sessions and receive lots of constructive criticism. My technical ability has improved a lot since being in the NPL, but is definitely something I want to continue to improve on.”
With this being the third season of NPL competition in Western Australia, Keziah has been part of a Subi team who has made the jump from State League to the new level. It’s been a challenge, with players making real sacrifices for their club. It shows that there is huge pride in the shirt and a desire to grow. The consequence is now that Subiaco are bridging that gap with signs of real progress, particularly this season. Keziah reflected on the experience.
“The first year in the NPL, it’s well known Subiaco finished bottom of the ladder without a win. The gap between the state league and NPL was more than I think any of our team could have anticipated. Our squad also suffered numerous injuries, including our goalkeeper, Marissa Pigeon, breaking her finger early on in the season.
“As a result of injuries, a lot of players, including myself, would play back-to-back games to ensure we could field both a U23s and first-team each week. While not much went our way the first year, we had a dedicated coach in Iain Jolly and a great captain in Jennifer Walsh, who both pushed our team to work harder and develop our skills.
“Subiaco finished last again in the second year of the NPL, but that result, in no way, reflected the exponential improvement. Our coach, captain, and countless other important players and staff stayed on to ensure that we continued to head in the right direction.
“We also managed to get a few new players which helped out with the depth of the squad. Subi won its first game against one of the top teams, Fremantle City. Our squad went on to win another game against NTC, and were very unlucky not to have had other wins. To top it off, our goalkeeper, Marissa Pigeon, won goalkeeper of the year. While the end result was not ideal, and perhaps unlucky, the hard work everyone put in did not go unnoticed.
“While finishing on the bottom of the ladder was a hard blow, I strongly believe Subiaco developed over the last season more than any other team. We worked a lot on fitness outside of training and the club organised for players to have access to additional technical sessions. I think our development and club culture has been a significant factor in attracting a number of new players this year.”
That continued development has continued this season as Subiaco won plaudits for performances in the opening weeks, including a superb effort against unbeaten league leaders Perth RedStar last weekend. Keziah is delighted in the way things are going but sees the potential for further growth.
“This year in the NPL, Subi has continued to improve. The goal of Subiaco has always been to play possession-based football and our new coach, Greg Farrell, has been an ideal fit to continue on from the foundations that our former coach laid down.
“We also are very lucky to have Chelsie Winchcombe join our team this year, who has made team of the week numerous times already. She has been an amazing role model and provided the team with a wealth of experience and guidance. With the amount of new players on the squad, there have been a few growing pains, but I have no doubt that Subiaco will only get stronger and stronger.
“Subiaco started the campaign with, barring a few players, a completely different squad from the previous season. The Night Series was a challenge with the squad not having had much of a chance to play together. With the start of the regular season, after Greg Farrell stepped in as coach, the squad really started coming together.
“Playing a possession-based game, we have had a few games we have conceded easily from making mistakes. However, we have shown numerous times this season, that we are capable of putting pressure and holding the ball up against top teams. We have a squad that’s very capable as individuals, with young players such as Zara Board, who has been selected for the Junior Matildas.
“The task now is to gel together as a team, and with the guidance of Greg and our captain Chelsie, this has started to come together. As we continue to develop as a squad and learn from mistakes made, I see no reason why Subiaco can’t push to be in the top four.”
Every team in the NPL WA has had to overcome the challenges of COVID this season, which has seen numerous postponements and clubs needing to play midweek games to catch up. Keziah outlined the difficulties it has imposed.
“It can be difficult when almost every week a different starting team takes the field. Building momentum and consistency is hard when COVID has left many uncertainties about the team that will be playing each week, or whether there will be a game at all. One positive about COVID is that it has given a number of the under-21s a chance to step up and play for the first team. Our first team and under-21s coach have worked together to develop the whole squad so that players are ready to play when they get called up and thus far have done a great job.”
On a personal level, this season has been a real challenge for Keziah who suffered serious injury. “My biggest challenge in football has come this year in the form of a dislocated knee cap. Having started every game for Subiaco over the previous two seasons, it has been really hard to sit back and not play. However, watching my team play, I can see how far we have come since we first started in the NPL, so I am really keen to get back out there and play again.”
“My overall aim for the season is to become a more well-rounded player. Sometimes my lack of experience shows in my decision making and it has been something I have consistently tried to work on. For Subiaco as a team, the aim is pretty straightforward, to play possession-based football. We want to continue to hold the ball up and pressure teams, while working towards minimising the mistakes. Subiaco has been developing as a squad since we started in the NPL and this year it’s no different, we always want to do, and be better, than the last game.
Looking more widely, Keziah shares the commonly held view around the competition that NPL in WA looks a lot different this year than it did last year. “One of the only teams that has shown a lot of consistency is Perth RedStar. It feels like every game you don’t know what to expect. I believe this is largely due to COVID as well as the departure of a number of players from last year. It has been said time and time again that there are not enough pathways for females in Western Australia to move up from the NPL. Playing soccer in WA, I think you have to sacrifice a lot of time with not as much reward as players would like.”
The most prominent theme that cropped up time and time again in our discussion was Keziah’s sheer passion and pride for her club. She ended our chat by outlining why this was so prominent.
“It’s hard to sum up the best thing about playing for Subiaco. For me, what’s kept me coming back to play has been the culture. Since the beginning of the NPL, there has been a strong focus on player development and learning. Part of the learning process is making mistakes, but rather than playing the ‘blame game’, our team has worked together to improve and stop making the mistakes.
“Especially in the first year of the NPL, which was undoubtedly the toughest year, the players in the squad were the reason I kept coming back to training and giving 100% in games. Being surrounded by players that genuinely want to see you do well and help you improve is something I have always valued with Subiaco.”