For goalkeeper Sophie Emery, the Illawarra Stingrays is a club incredibly close to her heart.
The 21-year-old has never known another sport other than football. As a junior she played for Berry-Shoalhaven Heads Sharks before moving to representative side Southern Branch at the age of nine.
At the age of 17, 'Squirt' - as she is now known by her teammates - moved to the Stingrays and never looked back.
As what happens in most cases, her opportunity for a run in the first grade team came suddenly. But once she got it, she grabbed it with both hands.
In round six of last season, usual first team goalkeeper Sian McLaren - who was signed from Adelaide in the A-League Women's competition - suffered an injury, meaning Emery was thrust into the side and remained there for the majority of the rain-affected season.
Due to a lack of numbers as a result of mainly wet weather disrupting the majority of the 2022 season, Emery had the task of playing both reserve grade and first grade each weekend.
It could have been something that was seen as a hindrance by Emery, but the youngster had a completely opposite outlook. As a result, she chalked up mammoth 33 appearances during the campaign.
"I like getting the opportunity to play first grade and [getting the opportunity to] play up the grades when I was younger," she said.
Despite the Stingrays being winless in their opening two games so far in 2023, Emery is remaining positive. She said that a new coach and squad - as well as A-League stars Danika Matos, Sheridan Gallagher and Chloe Middleton still not with the side - meant that the team needed to remain patient.
"I think because we've been missing a couple of those key players we've had to try a different formation and it has been working for us but it just takes practise getting used to that," Emery said.
"Last weekend [against Manly] I think we played well, we just switched off at key moments and these teams are just so good that they capitalise on it straight away. But overall I think we played well and we're working towards hopefully getting points and I reckon we will do that next week.
"We definitely need to take those chances because if we got one of those earlier in the game it would have been a different story. I don't think Manly played all over us that much. It was just they took their three chances and we didn't capitalise on ours."
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