When the opportunity came knocking for Rhali Dobson to play for the reigning W-League champions, she simply couldn’t say no.
And Melbourne City’s call couldn’t have come at a better time for her – personally and professionally.
“The best way I can put it was PK [Patrick Kisnorbo] brought me into City when I was at a point where I wasn’t enjoying the game and I was going to take a break and I wasn’t fitting in to what Newcastle wanted,” the 26-year-old told The Women’s Game.
Her dispassion was understandable thanks to a few contributing factors.
“My personal life took over. My partner had a brain tumour so we had to go through the full surgery and the treatment of chemo afterwards. I was very distracted and at the same time I got a really bad ankle injury.”
“I should not have finished the season playing on but in the W-League, as people know, while medical standards and everything have improved now, things weren’t quite what they should have been back then and I was playing on it seven days later.
“It took about 12 months for me to really overcome that injury amongst everything that was going on in my personal life.”
A break from the W-League was imminent for Dobson.
“When I was let go by the Jets, in all honesty, it was a sigh of relief because I don’t think I could have managed another season going through everything that I was and it was impacting my relationship with my family and my partner.”
She was looking forward to a summer free of football: “I took that step back, I just started playing in my local comp, I was enjoying it and then I was preparing funnily enough for a social, drunken summer which I haven’t done in nine years.”
“Then I got the phone call on a Sunday night from Melbourne City. I was down here two days later.”
The change in scenery has agreed with Dobson who has made sixteen appearances for the three-time champions, including three starts this season.
“City for me personally have shown me what I have the potential to be and have always had the potential to be. It was probably a move I should have made many, many years ago. It really opened my eyes to what I’m capable of and what I can bring to a team.” she said.
Her role has already evolved from one coach to the next; with Kisnorbo she was used more as an impact player while Rado Vidošić is trusting her with a starting XI spot.
“For me, playing on any of the wings, ultimately that’s where I’ve made my position in the W-League and made my difference. What I learnt with Melbourne City last year was to be successful and be the best that you can be, sometimes you don’t start games, sometimes you come off the bench and I think that’s what made me really grow as not just a person but an athlete as well. I need to do and I’ll do the job that’s best for the team.”
City’s season hasn’t gotten off to the brightest of starts with only one win – a 3-1 victory over Sydney FC – and losses to Canberra United and Melbourne Victory.
The story of the team’s inclusion in the W-League has evolved from “how good can they be?” to “can anyone stop them?” to “how do they keep doing this?”. For season 2018-19, despite the start, rival clubs would still be feeling wary of the team in light blue.
When the bar is set so high, it wouldn’t be implausible for the sheer weight of expectation to potentially burden this team but Dobson says it’s the complete opposite.
“[The club’s past success is] a positive, motivating factor. We love a challenge and while there may be personal anxieties between every player, because of the expectations you put on yourself and you may not be having a great week – or day even – all of us girls can pick that out of each other and we really motivate one another to be the best that they can be and it’s okay to have a bad day; we’re just normal people as well.”
City will look for its second win of the season this weekend against Perth Glory and for Dobson it is another opportunity to repay the faith Melbourne City has put in her.
“I’m just very grateful for the opportunity to come here. It’s essentially family to me, it has a family feel and that’s what I want.”