Not all elite footballers have the big contracts, flashy cars, lavish homes, glamorous lifestyles; for many females there is lot of out of pocket expenses, educational opportunities lost, career prospects given up and uncertain futures; however no one can question many who are determined to achieve their dream. This is the story of former Melbourne City goalkeeper Emily Kenshole.
Two years ago, Geelong teenager Emily Kenshole had the world at her feet and destiny, quite literally, in her hands.
Born and bred in Geelong, the Bell Park SC junior had a memorable 2017 season. She was deservedly chosen as the NPLW goalkeeper of the year after an outstanding year for Geelong Galaxy United.
She also saved a penalty against Matilda’s legend Lisa De Vanna in the dramatic grand final shootout against South Melbourne that season.
The icing on the cake though was when she won a short term contract with then back to back W-league champions Melbourne City, a club that has taken female football in Australia to new heights.
She made her debut in the 2017/18 season opener in Perth against Sam Kerr and co, and even though things didn’t go according to plan that night, she had finally hit the big time at the tender age of just 18.
“I was literally told about five minutes before kick off,” recalls Kenshole.
“Emily Shields broke her wrist in the last drill of the warm up which sent my nerves through the roof. I had no time to prepare I just had to go out and do my best.
“I learned soooooo much! When you're thrown in the deep end you either sink or swim. I unfortunately sank. But I learned from every mistake I made and it made me a better keeper and person for it.
"The opportunity out weighs everything else and just being there to play along side and against the greats was special.”
She initially had a six week contract with Melbourne Victory but didn’t play a game, then came the chance with City.
All of the hours and hours of literally throwing her body on the line had seen the teenager develop into one of the most promising young goalkeepers in the country in such a short space of time.
It was just rewards for a young lady who had literally come on in leaps and bounds, having only become a full time goalkeeper two years earlier when Galaxy was formed.
Kenshole was impressed with the standards at City, a club that revolutionalised female football in Australia.
“I think just being at a club that was so professional and training at a high level was the best thing,” she said.
“Then coach PK (Patrick Kisnorbo) was quality and it was an opportunity I just had to take with both hands and learn from the best.
“Being able to train alongside such big name players was such a highlight. Learning from such quality players and coaches as well helped me big time with my future ambitions.”
Kenshole started out at Bell Park as an outfield player and fill in goalkeeper. Her impressive performances between the sticks saw her climb through the local system.
Her hard work and strong performances saw her cement herself as Galaxy’s number one choice keeper under the coaching of Vince Ierardo.
Her guardianship of the Galaxy goals was one of the key reasons the Torquay based outfit made it through to their second consecutive grand final in 2017, finishing a penalty shot away from being crowned champions. Kenshole saved two key penalties, including the one off De Vanna.
Her performances well and truly caught the attention of Melbourne City’s eagle-eyed recruiting team and she spent a month training with some of the best footballers in the world in the best football training facility in the country.
But whilst she was appreciative of the opportunities that have been presented to her, the youngster faced the very same challenges that many female footballers around the country faced due to the lack of recognition and funding available for the female game.
A three and a half hour round trip from her home in Grovedale to City’s home base in Bundoora four times a week for training plus a fifth trip for a matchday, sometimes interstate, can be draining and requires plenty of commitment.
“I can't work out the exact figures but I'd leave home at 8am and wouldn't get back till around 3pm," Kenshole said.
"Doing that four times a week is exhausting but its the sacrifice I had to make.”
It made it difficult to hold down a proper job or study further. It meant time away from family and friends. It meant missing out on the fun things other teenagers were getting up to in the exciting new world of adulthood.
However she was determined to tough it out, and even though now two years later she is out of contract with a W League club, she is still willing to do the hard yards in 2020 in the newly created VPLW with Galaxy United.
“Back in 2017, I had to give up my normal job of being a trimmer,” explains Kenshole. “You constantly have to change appointments and you rarely get to spend time with friends.
"But all of this meant I had to make the most of the time and opportunity I got.”
Kenshole was unlucky to miss out on the new pay deal struck for W League players, which came shortly after her four week contract expired.
She was paid $60 a week to cover expenses, this amount increased three fold afterwards and has increased again this year after the landmark pay deal that was struck by the PFA for W League players.
Kenshole’s 2018 and 2019 NPLW seasons by her own admission were not up to the high standards she sets herself, but she is confident 2020 will be a chance for her to revive her football ambitions.
“I'll have to see what happens and where this takes me. Soccer is my career and what I've always wanted but it's about working hard and taking the opportunities you're given.”
Two years have passed since her memorable W League debut, but Emily Kenshole will keep living life on the fringes until she cracks it back into the big time again. She is for now focussing on her job at a local restaurant, but come next year she will be standing guard in the Galaxy goals as the Geelong based club tries to get back into the NPLW.
“I won’t give up, and I urge all other NPLW players to never give up and take advantage of all opportunities that come their way.”