Emily Gielnik has become the latest Westfield Matilda to notch up her 100th Westfield W-League appearance.
The 27th woman to reach the 100-game milestone, Gielnik joins the likes of Clare Polkinghorne, Caitlin Foord, Kyah Simon and Alanna Kennedy in reaching triple figures.
This kind of longevity doesn’t come easy. For Gielnik, like every other player in the 100-club, it took a lot to get to this milestone.
“Over those first few years it was tough financially to be able to play and sacrifice working and studying so that was a major part of getting through those first few seasons until it improved over time,” she said.
Signing as a teenager for Brisbane Roar in 2009, she has been a mainstay in the league and has now featured in 10 seasons, winning trophies with Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory, scoring 33 goals and counting.
Some things haven’t changed since her very first season. Her burst of speed down the wings, clever finishing and the enormous grin have been constant. But Gielnik has grown and developed in other ways.
“I think more than anything I’ve changed in regards to being more of a leader and having more of a leadership role," she said.
"When I started I was learning the ropes and looking up to the older girls.”
Those older girls include some of Australia’s finest: Lisa De Vanna, Lana Harch, Jo Burgess, and Kate McShea.
“I think I’ve changed in terms of how much I’ve developed my game but not only looking up to those people who were mentors for me but becoming one of those mentors,” Gielnik reflected.
Her teammates haven’t been her only mentors. In a career as long as Gielnik’s – and one that isn’t over yet – you don’t achieve anything solely on your own.
Of all the people who have been an immense support to Gielnik, she singles out one coach in particular: Jeff Hopkins.
“I had him in the first few years at Roar in the W-League even though I didn’t play that much, he was a mentor and really got the best out of me and maybe he’s the reason as to why I worked so hard to get the minutes I do now,” she said.
“Obviously I went and played with him at Victory that one season and he’s just been not only like a father-figure to me but a real professional mentor on and off the pitch and has always created the best opportunities for me to develop as a footballer.”
The Westfield W-League hasn’t just been the pinnacle of women’s football in Australia, it has been the launching pad for the careers of so many players into the national team and beyond.
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“It’s given me the platform in order to be selected and be able to showcase what I can do in the W-League and just improve your chances to be part of the Matildas and then once you’re in that Matildas squad, it’s kept you accountable,” Gielnik said.
This Westfield W-League season is set to be key as players look to impress new coach Tony Gustavsson, with the first major tournament of the cycle in the Tokyo Olympics inching ever closer.
Gielnik’s Roar have looked strong so far, but: “the only thing that we’re missing is the three points in every single game.” she admitted.
“I think the most exciting thing is we’re getting chances and we’re playing some really good football but we’re just not finishing, we’re not getting the points that we need. I wouldn’t say it’s been a rocky start but I think we’re on the up from here.”
Brisbane travel to Newcastle to take on the Jets in round four and Gielnik is set to play in game 101, something unfathomable to 17-year-old Emily back in 2009.
“When I started back in 2009, I wouldn’t have imagined that I would reach this milestone," she reflected.
"I definitely know I was capable of it but football can be short-lived and long-lived so it’s completely unpredictable as to how my journey or how my future was going to look.
"But I’m glad it ended in 100 games and I’m not slowing down anytime soon.”