Photo: Rachel Bach
These days Kariah White finds herself lining up in the Melbourne Victory starting squad, although going back just 18 months, her reality was much different.
In that period, White spent some time playing AFL while she took time out from football, a sport that she became disillusioned with.
Within the space of 12 months, the Galaxy United winger has seen her best form on the football pitch, which has coincided with a first ever W-League berth, in a season that’s seen her notch up nine appearances and secured her first goal for the side.
“I’m actually back in my first 12 months playing football again, I took two years off before that,” White said.
After taking an extended break from the game as she lost her passion for the sport, the former Bundoora United attacker was keen to see if football still resonated with her.
The idea of being in a team environment and having something to do encouraged her to try and reunite with the sport.
“I guess having a team sport and having something to do made me get back into it,” she said.
“I actually played AFL for those two years that I did have off and I was really curious to see if I still enjoyed [footbal]. I do, I love it and I’ve finally got my passion back.”
Before stepping away from football, White was faced with being turned away from clubs on several occasions and it started to take a toll on her confidence.
“In the first place – getting rejected so many times from so many teams – I lost my self-esteem. There’s always politics in football, so that is kind of what triggered me to leave.”
Her form in the NPLW under coach Vincenzo Ierardo saw her register seven goals in 25 appearances, as Galaxy stormed to a Grand Final berth.
The prospect of playing W-League football did cross White’s mind after such a stellar season, but it actually becoming a reality took her by surprise, put down in part to the rejection she had faced in the past at the highest level.
“Before I stopped playing I always had my eyes on it, had tried out for Victory a few times, two or three times, and again it comes back to that rejection and I never really got anywhere,” she told.
“I had my first season at Galaxy last year in the NPLW and it was nice to get into the Grand Final. From there, I was asked by [Melbourne Victory coach] Jeff Hopkins to come down and trial and now I have been there ever since.”
White credits the Geelong side – containing the likes of fellow Victory teammates Laura Spiranovic, Annabel Martin and Adriana and Melissa Taranto – for helping to reignite her footballing desire.
“I guess Geelong was such a young team and it really helped me grow my passion quite easily,” she said.
“There were so many younger girls who just supported me, probably without knowing it, which was really nice.”
She finished the season as Galaxy’s leading goalscorer, and she puts her goalscoring form largely down to her being able to shut off a lot of things and not think too far into the future.
Instead, White is learning day-by-day and is grateful to have the opportunity to play with players who have years of experience and talent behind them.
“During my season at Galaxy I didn’t really think too far ahead. I guess it was almost like a bonus that in my first year I got into a Grand Final and then was asked to trial both at City and at Victory.
“That self-esteem increased but it was never really in sight. Now that I’m here, it’s really overwhelming but I’m really happy about where I am.
“[The experience] is good, it’s hard work and it’s quite a big step up from NPL, as in training load and obviously travelling away to places like Perth but it’s really good.
“I feel lucky to be beside people like Natasha Dowie, Christine Nairn, Sam Johnson and our keeper Bianca [Henninger],” she added.
“That’s incredible for a local girl who has come from a small town like Echuca to be with such big names. I feel very privileged to be there and it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Having enjoyed a late-season revival of sorts, the Victory recently finished their season with a disappointing 5-1 loss to Canberra United, a game which saw White in the starting XI.
With the season now done and dusted, White will look to continue her quest with Galaxy United when the 2017 NPLW season kicks off.