Chances are probably high that you've never heard of Finley. Leia Varley knows this, but the small NSW town has played a crucial role in her journey to Wollongong.
Finley is home to about 2500 people and, more importantly to this story, is located within cooee of the Victorian border. That distance, roughly 20km north, proved the difference between her spending this year on the sidelines or becoming the Illawarra Stingrays' newest recruit.
"I went through the Victorian system because obviously Sydney is seven hours from home, and Melbourne is four. I went to school in Victoria and started playing in the Melbourne league, and moved to Melbourne for boarding school. I was in the state team, the NTC [National Training Centre] program for quite a few years and then started playing for South Melbourne FC with the likes of Lisa de Vanna. So that was a pretty cool experience," Varley said.
"Obviously this season with the COVID and the league shutting down in Victoria, and having moved home to NSW, I didn't want to stop playing. Unlike my teammates back in Victoria who had to stop, I had a different situation: I could move to the NSW league. My mum reached out to a couple of clubs and Illawarra had a few spots available due to some injuries, so I took the chance and opportunity to move down to Wollongong to keep up my development."
While relieved to be able to still play football in 2020, Varley understands that close calls can be a double edged sword. She may be only 18 years old, but the teenager has been on the verge of playing in the W-League for several years.
"I made the train-on [squad] with Melbourne Victory for four years and last year, I was train-on for Melbourne City. It's nerve wracking making train-on squads, but hopefully by making this move to Sydney, I can get new coaches watching me and I might have the potential to finally break into the W-League," the defender said.
"It's been really frustrating. They say they might sign you this year, and then they don't. They chose a more experienced player which is fair enough. And the next year, they say 'maybe wait another year, you're not quite there'.
"But last year, I trained with the likes of Steph Catley and Emma Checker, and the defenders they have there are people I have looked up to for years. Like Laura Alleway at Victory, these are huge role models. To even be able to look at them and see how they play centre back, and what they do to be at their optimal performance has been a huge opportunity.
"So I can't really complain about the opportunities I've had, but I'm really eager to get my opportunity. You see the young ones coming through and you just wish it's you all the time. It just pushes me more to make sure that it comes soon."
Varley arrived in the Gong three weeks ago. She played a handful of reserve grade games for the Stingrays before making her Women's NPL1 debut on Sunday afternoon in their 2-0 victory over Bankstown City at JJ Kelly Park.
Playing alongside veteran Michelle Carney and the W-League players like Caitlin Cooper and Lauren Keir will put the young gun in good stead. However, Varley knows that she will have to fight for her spot in the club's top grade side.
"I was really nervous, I hadn't played a senior game since the end of last year, back in Victoria. To be back in a senior atmosphere was pretty nerve wracking, especially because we were up - I didn't want to come on and compromise the win. It was good to be back on the field with some pretty elite players, it was good to be back kicking the ball around," she said.
"When I found out about some of the players there, I was like this is such a great opportunity. You've got Lauren Keir, Caitlin Cooper as well. These are some really big players that are role models. They're the people you want to be around, so that's why it was an easy tick coming to the Illawarra. I've been welcomed very nicely, the girls are lovely and it's been a really big step.
"I'm used to playing seniors back in Victoria but coming into a new environment, I have to fight for my spot. So it's about proving that I'm a senior player and potentially a starter for the team. Hopefully, I'll also be looked at by potential W-League coaches watching the games. I'm glad that I've have taken this opportunity."
Varley's immediate priority may be on playing consistent football for the Stingrays. However, like many young Aussie girls, she also has ambitions to one day play for the Matildas.
It's the ideal time to be on the radar of national selectors, ahead of the FIFA Women's World Cup heading down under in 2023.
"That's the optimal goal [playing for Australia]," Varley said.
"I first want to see if I can get some Young Matildas campaigns under my belt, that's one of the reasons I came to Sydney. I've been to some camps before but never got over the line to go away with the Young Matildas. That's my first goal to get a cap with the Young Matildas, and develop as much as I can over the next few years.
"I want to try to be the best player I can be over the next couple of years, and hopefully play for the Matildas in the future."
I want to try to be the best player I can be over the next couple of years, and hopefully play for the Matildas in the future.Leia Varley
That chance to pull on the green and gold would be the ultimate reward for years of hard work and sacrifice. Not just by Varley, but her family.
Varley, who first made her state football team when she was 10 or 11 years old, credits all of her loved ones for their amazing support in making every opportunity so far possible.
"My whole life has been centred around playing football," Varley said.
""My family has made so many sacrifices with me moving here, there and everywhere. And having to live by myself with boarding school when I was 13 or 14, so I was away from the family. And then my mum, at one stage when I was still living at home and I was just 18, she was driving back and forth to Melbourne which was a four-hour drive, leaving halfway through school and not getting back until one o'clock at night.
"I owe everything to my family and the sacrifices they've made. Everyone supports me, and they know it's what I want to do."