By Andrew Parkinson
It was three years ago that Rhali Dobson made one of the most difficult decisions of her life: to relocate more than 1,000 kilometres from home to chase her professional football dream.
That decision has proven to be worthwhile, with Dobson part of the Melbourne City squad that won the 2019-20 W-League grand final earlier this month, downing Sydney FC 1-0.
Dobson, a Football Mid North Coast junior with Wauchope Soccer Club, joined City ahead of the 2017-18 season having left the Newcastle Jets.
Having made her W-League debut in the competition’s inaugural season in 2008 as a 16-year-old, Dobson went on to make 55 appearances for the Jets before heading south.
The 27-year-old, who was also part of Melbourne City’s victorious 2018 grand final-winning side, was part of a City team that dominated the W-League this season as they won the premiership and championship without losing a match.
“Obviously going to Melbourne City has been a very rewarding move for me. [I’ve won] three medals across three years now. The double this season and crowned invincibles as well. It’s not something you see a lot at national level. It has taken a little bit for it to sink in what an achievement it is,” Dobson said.
“I’ve had so many great moments along the way. To achieve what we did in terms of [winning the] minor, major [premierships] and do it without losing a game, there’s not many times you do that in a career. It’s a big achievement, definitely [in the] top five [of my career so far].”
Dobson, from East Maitland, was also part of the Merewether United team that won the 2017 and 2018 Herald Women’s Premier League competitions.
She also scored twice in last season’s epic 4-3 grand final defeat to New Lambton.
Dobson was not sure whether she would be lining up for Merewether in the WPL this season, with the opportunity to take a well-earned break potentially too good to turn down having played football year-round for almost a decade.
But for now at the forefront of Dobson’s mind was her achievement with Melbourne City, her W-League teammates and the loved ones that had helped her along the way.
“It’s an amazing feeling. We’re all still riding the wave of being champions,” Dobson said.
“Every day you see something on social media to remind us of what we’ve done. One of the girls will post a photo or something. We’ve all achieved this together and put in the hard yards together. It was quite a journey. I’m very proud. We’re still celebrating, everything is obviously a bit different at the moment with the [Coronavirus]. But it has been amazing.
“For me I wouldn’t be at Melbourne City if it wasn’t for [my partner, Matt]. When I got the phone call originally I was very hesitant. It was hard to be apart from him with everything he has been through with his health as well. But he’s so supportive. He’s been such a positive influence on my career. When I got to hug him at the end [of the grand final] it was an emotional moment.
“As a female athlete every year you have to make the decision to either finish up or keep going. We don’t get maternity leave and you’ve got to make huge life decisions. To achieve something like this at the national level makes it all worth it.
“I’ve very much developed as a player, I’m much more versatile and much stronger and more resilient. [Going to Melbourne] has made me see what I could do and how far I can be pushed. I know what I need as a player to be the best version of myself.
“For me I want to keep playing. Football is a big part of me and who I am. But everything is up in the air at the moment so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”