Chelsea Camilleri reverses her game plan

Chelsea Camilleri made the shock move from striker to goalkeeper. Picture Damjan Janevski

At the start of the season, the Westside Strikers 13/14 coach said all players had  to have a go as goalkeeper, as there was no player for this crucial position.

Star striker Chelsea Camilleri put her hand up to go first, to get it out of the way. It only took one game for the 11-year-old to fall in love with the new position.

“The next week I told my mum to call my coach and tell him I wanted to play keeper full-time,” Chelsea said last week.

“The coach was shocked that his best striker wanted to move spots. He said: ‘We’ll try it, and if it’s not working, you’ll go back into the striker’s role’.”

Her coach shouldn’t have worried, with Chelsea making the transition easily, and she played that position for the rest of the season.

“You get to be one of the most important players on the pitch, and it’s a lot different from being a striker. You get to dive on the ball.”

She then had to make a decision about whether to make the new position more permanent when she tried out for the School Sports Victorian team.

“The other schools liked what they saw and nominated me to try out as a striker,” the Cana Catholic Primary School pupil said.

“I decided to do the tryouts as a keeper, as they wouldn’t have as many people trying out as keepers.

“I was a bit nervous and I thought there was other goal-keepers who would get through before me.

“There was about six try-outs, and they picked a team of 14.”

Of the 180 students who tried out, just one keeper was selected for the team that would travel to Perth to compete in the Australian School Sport Championships … Chelsea was that player.

The team finished fourth, winning three games.

“I was really nervous in case I got injured,” she said. “Every time they scored, I didn’t get upset, I just wanted to try harder. In Perth they were a lot bigger and more powerful.”

Chelsea said she hoped to continue in the keeper’s role, and has her eyes set on playing for the Matildas.

Westside Strikers president Joanne Ciantar said she hoped Chelsea’s achievements would help grow female participation in the sport and in the Caroline Springs-based club.

“We only started last year as a soccer club and we had about 275 players in the first year. We had 395 registered players this year … two female teams last year and four this year. We’ve doubled the female participation in one year. We have girls playing from under-7s through to the 15/16s age groups. We’re looking at a program to help players, like Chelsea, get through to higher levels.”