Katie Winter is a UQ student in her first year of a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science with Honours, and a rising midfield star at UQ Football Club (UQFC). She’s also a UQ Sports Achievement Scholarship holder – the first time a sports scholarship has been awarded for women’s football – and thanks to some smart work by the Club, she’s now on the way to reaching her footballing dreams.
In late 2014, UQFC successfully secured a much sought after license to enter a team into the PS4 Women’s National Premier League (NPL). The NPL is the new national second tier below the Westfield W-League, Australia’s professional women’s football competition.
UQFC’s admission into the NPL was largely thanks to the then Club President, David Smith, and Women’s Head Coach, Wayne Gibbon, who saw the new league as the missing link in their vision to develop an elite pathway alongside the Club’s thriving junior and senior teams.
Being in the new league has raised the bar significantly and the players have been quick to adopt the new standard of professionalism required. And so far it’s paying off. With the help of the strength and conditioning team at the UQ Sport Academy, UQFC are off to a flying start in the NPL’s debut season.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Katie at the UQ Sport Fitness Centre for a rare few spare minutes between study, training, work and playing.
How long have you played football, and how did you get interested in the sport?
“I started playing football mainly because my brother played. I would always be going along to his games at the weekends. My dad happened to be the coach of my brother’s team too, so weekends were football themed and when I was around five or six years old I started playing too – mainly running around in circles!”
Does anyone else in your family play football?
“Not anymore. My brother used to play, but when he was about 12 he started to play rugby. My dad never played football, but he is a football fanatic, definitely a ‘football dad’. Mum doesn’t really know the rules, but she comes along and watches anyway which is great.”
UQFC have recently started competing in the NPL. How’s the season going so far?
“We’ve had a good start to the season. We’re currently top of the table and we’ve only lost one game, however there are a few clubs around us that have games in hand. We’ve also scored more goals than any other team and conceded the least, so our goal difference is looking good.”
What are your ambitions as a footballer? Would you like to make it as a W-League player and maybe even play overseas?
“When I was younger, I always looked up to the W-league and thought that is where I would end up, but it’s not my main goal anymore. There are so many other pathways available. I will be happy with myself as long as I have done my best. It’s really important that I enjoy myself and have fun along the way.
I’ve had an idea about going to Japan on exchange, so Japan is on my radar. My family are English so I once thought England could be an option but the cold, grey, bleak weather doesn’t really appeal. Ultimately, I want to play to the best of my ability. I don’t really mind if that’s in Australia or another country.”
UQFC have recently partnered with the UQ Sport Academy – can you outline what benefits this partnership brings?
“I’ve really enjoyed the UQ Sport Academy sessions. We had a big group in the gym last week and the atmosphere was fantastic. I really like going to the gym with people as it gives me motivation to get there!
I’ve never really done upper body strength and conditioning work before, but the Academy have introduced us to bench presses and loads of other exercises, so hopefully I’ll see the benefits on the field.
How is your UQ Sports Achievement Scholarship helping you at uni?
“It feels good to be supported in both my academic and sporting achievements. The scholarship provides me extra tutoring in the subjects I’m struggling in, which I have accessed in the last 3 weeks and is really helping.
I also get given flexibility which enables me to push back assignments and exams if I have sporting commitments. This allows me to achieve my best in both football and my studies.”
What does a typical week look like in terms of training? How many times per week are you on the field, in the gym or playing games?
“I go to uni two-and-a-half days a week and work as a receptionist at a property development group for the other two-and-a-half days a week.
I train on Tuesdays and Thursday evenings for two hours each night at the fields in Kenmore and on Wednesday nights, we have strength and conditioning training in the gym. I am yet to use the pool, but I would like to start using that too as it will be good for recovery.
Our games are mainly on Sunday afternoons, with a few on Saturdays and a small number on Wednesdays.”
Do you have any plans for a career outside of football? With your studies in exercise science, are you planning to continue to work within the sport industry?
“I would like to pursue a career in the clinical side of sport, perhaps physiotherapy. I’m really interested in clinical physiology too and I definitely want to work within sport.”
How do you manage to achieve a balance to ensure you are successful in both football and your studies?
“Every week is different. Some weeks will be heavily focused on study, and others will be dominated by football. At the moment, I am in my first year and I am trying to stay switched on with all my studying.
As I said, the scholarship really helps me achieve a balance and in an ideal world it would be a 50/50 split between the two. But in reality it doesn’t always happen!”
Which team in Australia do you support? Do you follow any team outside of Australia?
“A few years ago, I used to go to a lot of the Brisbane Roar games. However, in Year 12 I stopped watching the Roar as my schedule got busier and a lot of my friends that played for the Women’s Roar team left the Club.
My overseas team is Manchester United. All my family are from England and they all support Man-U too.”
Who are your favourite professional players (male and female)?
“I don’t really have one player that I would consider my favourite. I admire a lot of players and I like watching and learning from the players who are at the top of their game.”
And finally, to the real important issues… football or soccer?
“Soccer………………….. [big pause]. OK, it has to be soccer… I’m sorry!!”
Messi or Ronaldo?
Brisbane Roar FC or UQFC?
“UQFC. I think I have to say that!”