In the latest of our WA on Wednesday series featuring players from the NPL WA Women competition, Subiaco‘s Lizzie Wallwork spoke to Impetus’ Ben Gilby about the constant growth and development at the club which has recently led to the likes of Lisa De Vanna, Ella Mastrantonio and Marianna Tabain joining. (27/7/22).
Above: Lizzie Wallwork (maroon shirt) in action for Subiaco at Perth SC. Photo: Rob Lizzi, supplied by Lizzie Wallwork.
Football has been an integral part of Lizzie Wallwork’s life for a long time, and she has played the game in both Australia and Singapore.
“I have been playing soccer for as long as I can remember, starting my footballing journey playing Joey soccer for Nedlands in a team with my younger brother, and my Dad as the coach,” she revealed.
“Being brought up playing soccer made the sport an embedded love and passion of mine from a very young age. I continued playing for Nedlands until 2014 when I moved to Singapore for two years. Whilst there, I improved my skillset, with numerous opportunities to travel for competition. I then returned to Perth in 2016 and joined Subiaco in the U18 age group and have progressed throughout the years from playing in state divisions, now to NPL.”
The Subiaco star credits a previous period taking part in athletics as making her the player she is. “It gave me solid foundations in speed and agility to assist with my soccer ability. Playing for Subiaco from an age of 16 in an open-age Division has also helped me develop my strength on the ball, as I have learnt how to hold my ground more effectively against players that might be bigger or stronger than myself. My technical ability has also dramatically improved since being at Subiaco, but further improvement in that department is my main goal for the future.”
Her footballing career may have been on an upward trajectory, but it has come with its challenges for Wallwork, who suffered interior and exterior ligaments in her ankle during a game two years ago. “I needed reconstructive surgery which led to almost an entire year of rehab and recovery, she reflected. “At that point in time, I had to make the decision whether it was worth returning to soccer, or whether my time as a player had peaked.
“After hard deliberation, I decided that my love for the sport, the Club, and my teammates outweighed my fear of not being able to perform to the same extent again. This combined with the support from the coaches drove my determination to return, and I am so grateful for that decision to this day.”
This supportive network at the club is, for Wallwork a key reason why they are continuing to develop every season.
“Subi is known for its togetherness and team unity which creates an environment for players to want to give their best as both individuals and team members. Subiaco instils values of spirit, willpower, and ambition into all aspiring young players, which is what creates such a positive community.
All my teammates share the common mentality and drive of wanting to improve, not only for themselves, but for the team as a whole. It’s this spirit, heart, and determination of everyone at Subi that makes me beyond proud to represent the club.”
Having been part of Subiaco for a number of years now, Wallwork is well placed to explain the huge development of the senior team and wider club since those pre-NPL days.
“The Club has developed almost out of sight since I joined. Subiaco were State League Division One Champions in 2019, and later joined the NPL competition in 2020. The increase in quality of football between State Division One and NPL was extreme, and in my opinion, this has been the biggest driver of Subiaco’s development.
“It was a big change in dynamic from winning almost every game in 2019, to not winning a single game in 2020 and finishing bottom of the ladder. This was by far the most difficult season for Subiaco, but not due to a lack of effort or commitment.
Subiaco was very lucky to have such strong and inspirational leadership figures who gave their entire heart to the club and drove the path for improvement. Namely, head coach Iain Jolly, reserves coach Jimmy Campbell, technical directors Adi Juric and Branko Jelic, and captain Jen Walsh worked non-stop to ensure Subiaco was making progress, and on track to meet the standard of competition in NPL. After a very difficult first season in NPL, progression started to become apparent in 2021.
“Our development as a club in 2021 was outstanding, and I am so proud of the Club and the players for their dedication, commitment, and hard work they put into growing and raising our standard. Although Subiaco finished bottom of the ladder, no one can deny the extreme improvement between seasons. We experienced our first wins in the NPL, and the hard work and dedication started showing in gameplay.
“This year we have followed suit in maintaining incredible leadership by recruiting Greg Farrell as our first-team coach. Subi also signed some very talented players, including new captain Chelsie Winchcombe, who have even furthered our development. The coaches’ dedication and passion for soccer, and the club, resonate with the team and drives our cohesiveness and motivation.
“With Greg as coach this year, and the abundance of new talented players on the team, all with the same vision for the future, Subiaco is looking stronger than ever and has even more capacity/potential for improvement and growth.”
One of the most promising sources of this growth is the increasing one-club ethos between the different age group teams and the senior squad, as Wallwork outlined.
“Greg is also ensuring an even brighter future for Subiaco NPL by providing even more opportunity for aspiring young women in soccer, by immersing U18 players in occasional NPL training sessions, exposing them to higher level playing, building relationships between older and younger players, and highlighting the direct pathway from younger age groups to NPL.”
Subiaco overcame some serious hurdles at the start of this year’s campaign in Night Series, but Wallwork sees things only going in a positive direction.
“We recruited an abundance of talented new players this season, with only a few first team players remaining from last season. The new talent on the team presents an incredible opportunity for this season and those to come, however at the start of night series, Subi did struggle in the short term in gameplay, as obviously this was the first opportunity for us to play together as essentially, a newly formed team.
“More challenges arose during night series due to implications of COVID for both players and coaches, and an unexpected shift in coaching staff. Adi, Branko, Jimmy, and Iain led the team through these times of uncertainty, and thanks to Subi’s fundamentals, the remaining players on the team banned together and worked hard in the interim. Thankfully, Greg (Farrell) stepped in as head coach and lifted our standard even higher, recruiting even more talented players, and giving us a stable platform to progress and reach our potential.
There have been ups and downs for Subi this season, but considering such a shaky start during pre-season, and working with an essentially new team of players and coaches, the level of improvement and achievement so far has shown some very promising moments which culminated in Sunday’s win over Balcatta Etna which ensured the club won three games in a NPLW WA season for the first time – and stand on 12 points – their highest ever tally, and there are still six games to play.
“Greg has promoted a common mentality and intention, to improve the quality of gameplay through control and prolonged possession. Although this strategy may lead to concession when mistakes are made upon the development of these skills, it is substantially improving the quality of Subiaco’s gameplay and progressing us to smooth and high-level football.”
That higher-level of football has been ratcheted up to new levels in recent weeks with the arrival of three of Western Australia’s most prominent players – Lisa De Vanna, Ella Mastrantonio, and Marianna Tabain.
The arrival of the trio may have left some in the NPL WA Women rubbing their eyes with disbelief, but it is a sign that Subi are a club making real strides.
Wallwork outlined how the club were able to bring the three stars in. “Lisa came to the club through the J&J Academy and is working with Adi Juric and Branko Jelic there, as well as with the Subiaco juniors to help them develop technically and also in terms of mentality. I think Lisa had seen the improvements being made with the first team, and with two players like Marianna and Ella not playing anywhere, spoke to them about joining up and they’ve made a big impact on the group.
“The three of them have been really good with communicating and helping individuals, especially the younger ones who come up from the 21s, with their understanding and knowledge in training, which has then helped with team play on the field.
“With playing a much more possession-based style this season their movement, awareness, and quick thinking is next level to most in WA, so it’s terrific for the rest of us to see in action at training and to try to learn from. They’ve come in and been great as part of the group in training as well, specifically with going out of their way to help younger individuals who otherwise may not have had the confidence to approach them and ask questions.”
With the season approaching its final regular stages, Wallwork assessed how both she and her team have developed this season.
“Personally, my main focus this season was to improve my technical ability as well as be able to more effectively assess potential passages of play. I am trying to slow down my own game and improve the quality of my decision-making on the field, with regard to leading runs and passing decisions, rather than making the wrong decisions and overworking myself unnecessarily. The overall aim for the team is to improve the quality of gameplay through maintaining possession and control. Subiaco’s standard has already significantly lifted this season, and even more progression is expected.”
Like many others, Wallwork feels the NPL WA Women competition has been a very different beast this year, and that further improvements are still necessary for the league to reach its potential.
“Due to COVID, injuries as well as lacking opportunity in Perth, many teams lost key 2021 players, leaving the playing field quite unpredictable as the competition started to level out. RedStar is the only team to have consistently performed at an exceptional level this season, but otherwise, the level of competition is a lot closer this year than last.
“Although there has been increasing representation and opportunity for women’s soccer in recent times, there are still lengths to go to further this movement. The competition in NPL WA Women would be even better if there were easier pathways for elite sportswomen to advance above this level.