Hodgson: The ALW is opening doors for younger footballers

-

Isabel Hodgson debuted for Adelaide United as a teenager at 17. Fast forward eight years and the attacker was named her side’s captain for the 2021/22 season.

Fifty-two league appearances later, she looked back on what a journey to professional football looked like for a young player then, and what it looks like now.

“I was part of the NTC [National Training Centre] program here in South Australia from about 16, and then I was asked to train with the W-League team over the summer,” she said.

“That basically meant I would turn up for training if they needed me too and would make up the numbers basically. Obviously, as a 16-year-old that was like the best thing ever.”

Embed from Getty Images

When she returned the next year to trial, she was selected for a spot in the official squad aged just 17.

Not only is Hodgson a product of Australia’s female youth system, but she has also experienced the vastly different scene of college football in the United States.

She played in the NCAA Division 1 competition for four years after migrating as an 18-year-old, captaining the East Tennessee State University and becoming the most capped women’s footballer in the college’s history.

“I really liked the college system over there because that that level of football is huge and it’s a great competition. You get to play at that level, as well as studying, which is much harder over there,” she said.

“I would love to have that system here. To make it easier for players to study as well as play. But I think with the lack of big universities in each state it wouldn’t really work unfortunately.”

Embed from Getty Images

Despite being just 25, her wealth of footballing experience has earned her the role of club captain. Having started her career eight years ago at the same club, she keeps a keen eye on the pathway available to young footballers.

“I remember the first year when I played we weren’t even given travelling and training kits. We’d use old tracksuits that people had used before and little things like that that aren’t as professional as things are now,” she said.

“It’s good for the young girls that they’re exposed to this higher level at a younger age. I had to wait four or five years of playing here before the league became more professional. I think it’s improved a lot.”

Embed from Getty Images

Hodgson is not seeing these improvements at just her club either. As Australia’s women’s football continues to progress with the likes of Sam Kerr, Alanna Kennedy, and Ellie Carpenter all moving to Europe to compete, the A-League Women’s has become a great place for young footballers to thrive.

“I think it’s changed especially now that a lot of the International, older players are largely overseas. That’s kind of opened the door for younger players to get imported earlier than they may have originally,” she said.

“I think if you look at all the women’s teams now, a lot of them have quite a big youth base which I think is great. The younger you are playing at a higher level, you’re going to continue to improve, so, I think they [the ALW] have done pretty well.”

Embed from Getty Images

The truth to the idea of a decreasing age of women’s top flight football in the ALW is evident without packing a huge punch.

The average age in the ALW this season is 24.4 years. In 2017/18, it was 24.7. A change, but a minor one.

Interestingly however, there’s a great contrast when compared to the A-League Men’s. The average age for that competition this season is a much higher 27.7 years. In 2017/18, it was only 25.7. The men are getting older, the women are doing the opposite.

Embed from Getty Images

With more professional minutes invested into young legs, Adelaide’s new skipper foresees a bright future ahead for Australian football on an international stage as well. With the ALW playing a pivotal role in including and conditioning players for the biggest stages in the game.

“When you think about the girls in the Matildas’ lineup now and when they were young playing, this league wasn’t professional, it wasn’t like what it is now,” Hodgson said.

“So if the girls today can play a couple years in the ALW and then play for the national team it will definitely show that they’ve been playing high level football for a longer period of time. Since they were 16-17 rather than waiting until 23-24 to get a proper start.”

Embed from Getty Images

Hodgson’s message for this generation of up and coming footballers was simple.

“You’ve been given an opportunity at a really young age to play at a great level with players who’ve been playing for a long time. Use that to your advantage, don’t take it for granted,” she said.

“Really enjoy your time playing, try and learn as much as you can and try and to improve as much as you can. That’s all I would say.”

Feature Image Credit: Jordan Trombetta

Enjoy this content? Support The Football Sack

Due in part to COVID and lack of current sponsorship we are at risk of not having the funds to continue running The Football Sack. If you enjoy our content and support our work in training talented young writers, please support us with a donation. If every reader contributed just $3, our funding would be covered for over ten years.

DONATE

Learn with us

Tom Macraehttp://medium.com/@macraetomr23
Communications undergrad at Western Sydney University covering Macarthur FC in the 2021/22 season. Newcastle United. Jack Grealish fangirl.

Latest Articles

Love your football?
Subscribe to our weekly football wrap. During the season we'll send you all the week's football action straight to your inbox.
* indicates required