For this week’s WA On Wednesday interview, Balcatta Etna‘s Mia Yeo speaks to Impetus’ Ben Gilby about representing Western Australia overseas, the benefits of playing for the NTC, and her first season at Balcatta Etna (24/8/22).
Above: Mia Yeo breaks forward for Balcatta Etna this season. Photo: JASP Photography.
Mia Yeo is one of several talented youngsters playing NPLW WA football this season. With one match remaining in her first senior campaign with Balcatta Etna, Yeo reflected on her footballing experiences so far.
“My football journey started when I was 11 after my season playing Tennis and AFL (Australian Rules Football) with the boys’ teams finished,” the Balcatta star revealed. “I began playing for East Fremantle Tricolore junior girls team and played there for two years. During my second year in football, I was selected for the 2017 U12s state School sports team and we went to Adelaide for the Pacific School Games. During that trip, I realised what opportunities football can create and grew a passion for the sport.”
Those opportunities have included international travel representing Western Australia, as well as further inter-state trips before the pandemic.
“I have previously been involved with NTC, as I played with the U15s squad for two years and participated in the U14s National Youth championships in Coffs Harbour twice. I was also lucky enough to get a trip away to China in 2019 representing Western Australia with the U14s state squad. It was a great experience to play international football.”
This time playing with the NTC has really stood Yeo in good stead coming into senior NPLW football as she revealed: “Playing for NTC U15s in the past and being the youngest team in the U23s league is good competition. I found that playing against older and more experienced players helps with self-growth and faster football development from a younger age. The physical side of the game helped us get used to playing more physical opposition and to develop grit.”
With travel restricted in recent times, Yeo still managed to play some representative football last year around Western Australia, as she explained: “Last year I played with the U18s school sports team and we went on a rural trip to Albany and Busselton to play friendly matches against country teams. The trip was great fun even though it wasn’t an interstate-level competition, and I learned a lot from the players and coaches.
“Also last year, I went back to my local club Fremantle City which worked out well as my team (the under 23’s) finished top of the league and came runners-up in the cup final. As well as playing for Balcatta Etna this season, I am an associate for the NTC U18s team.”
The talented wide player’s growth this season for Balcatta Etna has been hugely enjoyable to watch as she develops her ability to beat players on the wing and cut inside to shoot as well as bring team-mates into the action. In terms of how she sees herself as a player, Yeo reflected:
“I would say firstly I’m intuitive. I play like this when I reach a flow state of mind and am in the zone. Secondly, I would say rapid as I feel I use my acceleration to my advantage and play in the moment. Lastly, I would say I am a level-headed player as I feel I keep calm in most situations and always respect the referee and opposition.”
Whilst Yeo is still in the early days of her footballing experiences, she has had to overcome several injury-related hurdles which has caused some frustrations. “The biggest challenge I have faced in my footballing journey would be injuries, such as shin splints and weak ankles which have resulted in time off football for rehab. Quite recently I developed a high ankle sprain and this has led to many missed club games due to time off and increased recovery time from reinjury.”
After spending last season at Fremantle City, Yeo moved across to Balcatta for the 2022 season. It was a move that she feels has worked out perfectly for her.
“I moved to Balcatta alongside some Fremantle teammates as my coach for under 23s last season was moving there. I was impressed with the tactical coaching and the Balcatta team spirit. I found that whenever I versed them they always played at a high standard and the club overall seemed dedicated to its player’s development. Also, I feel as if I learn a lot from the senior and more experienced players.
“The best part about playing for Balcatta Etna is the club culture and cohesiveness. The team and staff have so much passion for the team, it’s a motivating environment to be around. Also, I am impressed with the calibre of the players and the knowledge of the game they demonstrate.”
Yeo’s time at the club began with their appearance in the Night Series Cup Final against Northern Redbacks in the build-up to the NPLW WA season. It is still a match that lingers in her memory. “It was extremely competitive and high-paced the entire match. The game started off favouring us as we were up two goals in the first 15 minutes but Redbacks hit back with one before halftime.
“The second half was when we were heavily put under pressure as Redbacks had many shots where they eventually scored an equaliser in the final minutes and then finished us off 4-2 in extra time. Overall, the game was a great experience for me as it was so quick-paced and a great introduction to the top-standard first-team level.
With Yeo having played representative football in the past, and on the back of a promising personal season with Balcatta Etna, a potential jump up to play for Perth Glory in the A-League Women in the future remains an aim.
“It is something I am striving towards as it would help to continue my development as a player. My overall approach to my football path is to be open to what opportunities come my way and to reach the highest level I can personally get to.”
If Mia Yeo can continue developing at the rate she has this season, there is absolutely no reason why those A-League Women dreams cannot be fulfilled.