If you were to wind back the clock on the career of Charlestown Azzurri’s Lori Depczynski you would find a list of familiar names that have called the 28-year-old a teammate.
Among those who have called the championship-winning captain an on-field colleague include Matilda Joey Peters, countless A-League Women’s players including Rhali Dobson and a raft of talented local athletes. You would also find multiple championship trophies.
Originally from Moree in the state’s northwest, Depczynski moved to Newcastle in her late teens with a vision to succeed in the footsteps of her idols.
“I was a convert from netball. My brother played football and I thought that looks like it is a bit more fun,” she said.
“I always loved from when I was a young teenager in Moree Kyah Simon. She was a quick player, quick touches and around that time she had just made her debut with the Matildas.
“Playing in Newcastle, Joey Peters was one who stood out for me. She was a huge influence, just such a passion for the game and a great person.”
The impact of Peters led Depczynski to Valentine, where she kickstarted her career in the Women’s Premier League. Before too long the young talent found herself at Merewether, where she would craft an identify as one of the influential figures of the competition.
“It was a culture where we were all there together doing something we loved. It was a very impressionable time in my footballing time in Newcastle,” she said.
Under the stewardship of the evergreen Cassandra Koppen, Depczynski led the on-field efforts of a Merewether side who redefined the competition, including winning three titles in four years.
Depczynski described Koppen as “a bloody legend” who balanced people and playing in a way she has not seen since.
“She was a fantastic coach and a fantastic friend, although who knows how she used to manage to do both at the same time,” Depczynski said.
“As a coach she would tell you what she wanted and if you didn’t do it, she would let you know.”
On that Merewether journey was friend Nicki Jones.
“Everyone who has played with Nicki, everyone who has been around any team she has been in, she is just a great person and a real leader,” Depczynski said.
It wasn’t all match day magic at Myamblah Crescent however, with plenty of lighter moments to shine the spotlight on the people who didn’t make the scoresheet.
Enter, the unofficial name of Merewether United, the Llamas.
“I am pretty sure it was from a dream that Cass had. She had a dream that I rocked up to a game with a Llama and that is where it started,” Depczynski said.
“Those Merewether years were just such a blur. They are all mixed in. There were so many successful seasons but not just by results.
“The people we were playing with and enjoying the football… I call them the golden Llama years.”
The progress of the competition is not lost on Depczynski who, given the talent on the rise at Azzurri, she might be battling with for selection in the future.
“The progress the competition made in the time from when I started at Merewether and where we ended the journey at that club was incredible,” Depczynski said.
“That early work from the people who put in all those hours, Cass Koppen, Scott Ellis and so many others is now paying dividends.
“We now have much better pitches, much better facilities on game day, we are training three times a week, it is just touching more on the professional side.”
As for what next, Depczynski wasn’t giving much away.
“Personally, for me, playing it is [about] keeping as fit as I can and making sure I can dedicate the time,” she said.
“It is hard to give up.”