The Star: July 21, 2016

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36 Thursday July 21 2016

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The Star

Countdown to Rio

Keeping goal at the Olympics

The Rio De Janerio Olympic Games begins in two

weeks. Sports reporter Gordon Findlater counts

down to the games, highlighting some of our

brightest talents. This week he looks at Football

Ferns’ goalkeeper Victoria Esson, who helped to

book her spot to the games by playing in the men’s

team

• By Gordon Findlater

FOR VICTORIA Esson, it was

a word in her ear from New

Zealand Football in 2015 that

helped to set her path to Rio.

The 25-year-old goalkeeper

attended a Football Ferns trial

camp early last year. She was

advised to join a men’s team to

help with the development of

her game and was sent back to

Christchurch.

Esson spent 2015 playing for

the Ferrymead Bays’ premier

reserve men’s team. The tactic

worked – she was selected to

travel with the Football Ferns

squad to Rio.

“It was more around the match

speed and playing at a level weekin-week-out

that isn’t dissimilar

from playing at international

level. It was pretty intimidating

during my first couple of

games, but my team was really

welcoming. Eventually I got used

to the guys, it became a normal

thing in the end, as opposed to

something I wasn’t used to,” said

Esson.

She may now be one of the

country’s top goalkeepers. However,

donning the gloves wasn’t

Esson’s preferred role until midway

through her career.

Kicking a ball around at

lunch time with a friend while

at Halswell Primary School as

Football Ferns’ Olympic squad

Katie Bowen, Katie Duncan (vc), Abby Erceg (c), Anna Green,

Sarah Gregorius, Betsy Hassett, Amber Hearn, Annalie

Longo, Meikayla Moore, Erin Nayler, Ria Percival, Jasmine

Pereira, Ali Riley, Rebecca Rolls. Rebekah Stott, Rosie White,

Hannah Wilkinson. Kirsty Yallop

Travelling reserves

Catherine Bott, Daisy Cleverley, Victoria Esson, Paige Satchell

MAINLAND’S PRIDE: Victoria Esson, 25, is one of three Canterbury players heading to Rio with

the Football Ferns.

a 10-year-old was her first taste

of football. She caught the bug,

quickly signing up to play for

Halswell United.

Esson played outfield with

the boys through 11th, 12th and

13th grade before joining a girls’

team. It wasn’t until she was 17

that playing goalkeeper became

an option.

“I kind of started at the top of

the pitch and moved backwards.

I ended up playing mostly leftback

and centre-back before

switching to keeper.”

In fact, she may have never

made the switch if it wasn’t for a

teammates misfortune.

While at a tournament, her

team’s goalkeeper was injured.

Esson was the only other player

in the team with goalkeeping experience,

although she had never

kept goal in a football match.

Esson spent six years in the net

playing goaltender in her second

sport of choice, ice hockey.

As a youngster, she played

roller hockey before moving onto

the ice. She even represented

Canterbury at national provincial

level before making the decision

to focus on football.

The move to goalkeeper paid

immediate dividends and after

only a few years in the role, she

had secured a college scholarship

to Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

Esson had a brief professional

stint with Norwegian club Avaldsnes,

but opted to head back

home to New Zealand. Esson

has since played club football for

Coastal Spirit and Ferrymead

Bays, while also playing for the

Mainland Pride in the national

women’s league.

She’s no stranger to representing

New Zealand at big tournaments,

playing in the under-17

World Cup in New Zealand. She

also took part in two under-20

World Cups in Chile and Germany.

Esson’s role with the national

team in Rio is expected to be

restricted to the training field.

The goalkeeper is one of four

travelling reserves selected in the

Olympic squad.

“Every single training you

don’t know what’s going to happen,

so you’ve just got to be ready

to go if you get the call up.”

The Football Ferns departed

for Rio on Tuesday to begin their

final pre-tournament training

and get accustomed to conditions.

The team face a tough draw.

Their first match is against defending

Olympic champions, the

United States, on August 3. They

then play Columbia and France

in their final group matches.

Despite the tough group, the

team are confident of eclipsing

Football Ferns’ Olympic

draw

August 3 v USA at Belo

Horizonte

August 6 v Colombia at

Belo Horizonte

August 9 v France at

Salvador

their quarter-final finish in London

four years ago.

“If we are going to win a gold

medal, which is our ultimate

goal, we’re going to have to beat

these teams somewhere along

the line, so why not do it in our

group.”

Date of birth: March 6,

1991

Height: 173cm

Hometown: Christchurch

Position: Goalkeeper

Caps: 0

Club: Ferrymead Bays

Fact: Esson worked as a

portfolio manager for the

Canterbury Earthquake

Recovery Authority, having

completed postgraduate

studies in wind energy and

industrial engineering at

Texas Tech.

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