Australia

Shay Evans: The next big thing in Australian women's football

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Football boots are now an essential item for the Young Matildas star, but at first she didn't like wearing them.

Shadeene (Shay) Evans' first experience playing football came at the age of nine.

“When I first started playing, nobody in the community had soccer boots," she told SBS News.

“It was just bare feet, playing on the grass.”

“Even Futsal, on the basketball courts, we would play without shoes.”

The 17-year-old grew up in the remote town of Borroloola on the Northern Territory's east coast. It is 3,000km away from Sydney, where she currently lives. 

Her new high school has more students than the entire population of her hometown.

But these days, she has no choice but to wear football boots.

Shay Evans, John Moriarty, Alen Stajcic
Shay Evans, John Moriarty and Alen Stajcic in Borroloola.
John Moriarty Football
 

Evans made her debut for the Young Matildas earlier this year and is hoping to earn a W-League contract before representing Australia at the highest level.

“One day I want to be a Matilda,” she said. 

"Just need to keep pushing myself to the limit, keep training hard, putting in those hard sessions.”

Evans was talent scouted by Matildas coach Alen Stajcic when she was just 13 and is the first elite athlete to emerge from the John Moriarty Football program.

The program is run by its namesake, the first ever Indigenous player to be selected by Australia in 1960, and has helped Evans progress in the sport. 

“Football opened up a huge opportunity for me," Moriarty told SBS News. 

“It’s a program that will help many kids come through the game but also give an education through our great game.”

“When we are at Borroloola, we have up to 100 kids playing with us.”

The achievements of Evans and Moriarty are being recognised during Indigenous Football Week, which begins on Saturday. 

 

Moriarty is also from Borroloola and has played a major role in Evans' career, something for which she is extremely grateful for.

"John Moriarty Football has helped me heaps with everything," she said

“It was hard moving away from such a remote community ... Coming down here to a much bigger city, it was hard trying to adapt to a different environment.”

“I would get homesick ... Everything that I do like fishing, being around my family every day, camping under the stars, I really love that.”

Moriarty couldn't be prouder of what Evans has already achieved.

“She’s done a great job and has blossomed tremendously, not only with her football game but also with her general life, health and education," he said. 

“I believe she can go further steps ahead.”

 

Evans has become a role model back home in Borroloola. 

“Every time I go home the young ones and everyone in the community are like 'SHAY, SHAY, SHAY is back, when did you come back?'”

“Everyone in the community, even the young ones, they look up to me.”

“I’m glad I’m seen as a role model, I can open their eyes to see what I’m doing and what they could achieve in the future ... It’s great.”

Moriarty believes Evans has what it takes to make it at the highest level.

“She’s very measured in how she speaks, how she talks, how she mixes with people and how she commits to the various programs that make up her life," he said.  

"We would like to see her come through as a top Matilda, but also we hope that other kids will follow as well.”

“Shay has the ability to do that."

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