In an exclusive chat with The Women’s Game, Perth Glory captain Tash Rigby speaks about the most challenging A-League season of her career.
Rigby spoke about the difficulties of spending three months away from home, how the A-League side overcame the difficulties, and her pride in their incredible achievements.
Glory's A-League season challenges and achievements
- The club were only able to play one home game all season, before being forced into a North Sydney hub due to COVID restrictions closing the Western Australia border.
- They had to battle injuries and a COVID outbreak which stretched the squad to its limits.
- Despite all of this, the club only failed to reach the Finals on goal difference.
More A-League Women's news can be found on The Women's Game.
Tash Rigby is one of the longest serving players at Perth Glory. During her time with the club she has played in two Grand Finals and captained an exceptionally young team during the 2020/21 season, one who produced a number of heroic performances in difficult circumstances.
This season, it was a different story in Perth. An extensive early recruitment campaign brought in some outstanding young talent in the likes of Alana Jancevski, Claudia Mihocic, and Sofia Sakalis.
Additionally, there was the addition of an experienced spine with the addition of Mie Leth Jans and Kim Carroll and the return of local legend Lisa De Vanna.
The 2021-22 campaign opened with a carnival atmosphere at Macedonia Park, where 1,000 Perth fans cheered their team’s first win in almost 20 months. That would prove to be the only time the club would be able to play in Western Australia all season.
Perth were sent to be based nearly 4000km away, at the other side of the country. Players had to leave their families, jobs, universities and schools if they wanted to continue playing.
Rigby reflected on the decision making process behind going on the road with the club for what turned out to be three months.
“It was definitely challenging, but I am extremely fortunate to have an incredibly understanding and supportive workplace so they were fantastic in allowing me to work remotely during the trip.
"The club were very supportive and we worked together to find solutions around working remotely.
"There were a few other players in the same boat as well, it is just sad to think that if we were male, we wouldn’t be encountering this issue.”
Rigby’s last point is easily reflected by Perth Glory’s men’s team who similarly were unable to play home matches for a long spell. However, due to the nature of being full-time professionals, the men did not have the concerns of keeping their other employment after several months away.
Looking back, the defender saw the season as one with so many conflicting emotions. Something most would struggle to cope with.
“There were definitely some hurdles but the biggest challenge for me personally was being away from my support networks; my partner, friends and family.
"They play such an important role in my life and it was really difficult to be away from them for so long with little to no warning.”
The strength of Rigby’s captaincy was being shown in ways she could never have previously considered. Knowing how hard she was finding things herself, the Margaret River-born star recognized that she needed to ensure her team-mates were in as good a mental state as she possibly could.
“I did everything I could to ensure we created a safe, warm and welcoming environment for both players and staff.
"It was definitely tough at times, but we tried to encourage vulnerability and honesty amongst the group, and by regularly checking in on each other, we could help provide support where needed.”
It worked incredibly well. What could have been a season of struggle and battles turned into one of incredible achievements as Perth were tucked inside the top five for the vast majority of the campaign. Perth’s captain outlined how the players achieved this.
“Being on the road together meant that we became closer as a group by spending more time together in close proximity.
"We encouraged a lot of different team building activities and tried to incorporate as much fun and joy into our time together as possible.
"This wasn’t difficult as we have some very joyful, lively and charismatic characters in our group!”
Rigby also emphasized the role played by head coach Alex Epakis during the time away from home.
“Alex has been incredible. Even before last season ended, he was planning this season.
"His meticulous preparation and dedication to this team is evident. He is so invested in our team, and his passion is both infectious and inspiring.
"His vision for this season was clear and concise and he bought us all along on the journey with him.”
Looks like Perth captain Tash Rigby will have the phantom of the opera look after the elbow from Adelaideâ€™s Fiona Worts 🎭— Teo Pellizzeri (@teopellizzeri) January 4, 2022
Good luck keeping her off the field though #PERvCBR @aleaguewomen
Watch live on @10FootballAU @ParamountPlusAU from 5pm AEDT today https://t.co/DGwqMDGqWr pic.twitter.com/naTXwznsOT
Despite those challenges faced and overcome, perhaps it should not be a surprise that the defender’s overwhelming emotion looking back over the campaign was pride.
“This season was definitely a special one. I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am to be a part of this team.
"The players and staff showed such resilience and tenacity throughout the entire campaign.
"To put on the performances we did throughout the season, considering the circumstances was something to be proud of.
"I am so excited to see what the future holds for this team. We have built an excellent foundations and I have a feeling 22/23 is going to be a good one.”
Prior to this season, Adelaide United famously missed out on the Finals by a tiny margin. This time round, it was Perth. Rigby knows exactly what her team need to do next season to make sure they follow the Reds by getting into the top four.
“I think if we improve on our ability to be more consistent in our clinical execution, our defensive mindset all across the park, and our intelligence when it comes to game management, we’ll be fine.”
With Perth Glory’s outstanding A-League Women season now beginning to settle in the memory bank, Tash Rigby is in the midst of her next challenge – getting back to work and being a key part of the Fremantle City NPL WA Women’s team.
The full A-League Men's schedule can be found using this link.