[Image: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images]
From Ingham, North Queensland to Colorado in the United States, Ashley Spina can attest to football as a vehicle for collecting experiences.
The versatile midfielder-defender has just completed her fifth season at Westfield W-League level spanning two clubs, as many knee reconstructions and a stint playing overseas.
Spina originally moved from Ingham to join the Queensland Academy of Sport as a teenager, before debuting for Brisbane Roar in 2011.
Born and raised in a small rural town, she says the years which followed could hardly have been predicted.
“I just had it in my head that I wanted to make the W-League. That’s what I wanted to do and I knew that meant I had to move,” Spina said.
“It was hard at the time because I had just graduated from school and it was the first time I had moved anywhere.
“That was pretty hard, to move out of home as an 18-year-old. But I knew I wanted to play at the highest level and that’s what it took.”
Spina’s dedication led to a 2013 switch to join Newcastle Jets, where she and then-teammate Tara Andrews hatched the plan for a move abroad.
Consecutive US summers with second-tier side Colorado Pride followed in a testament to football’s global opportunities.
“We wanted to go overseas and play somewhere, we had been thinking about it for a long time,” Spina said.
“Luckily enough we knew a coach who knew a coach over there and that’s how it started. We made contact with the coach, he was interested in us and after some phone calls and skypes he wanted to sign us.
“Over in Colorado, if you were a player you also coached. Last year I went back home and helped out the girls teams at Northern Fury which I liked.”Settling back in Townsville – around 100kms south of Ingham – in 2015 also meant a rare chance to spend time with her family, who have strong roots in rugby league.
Father Laurie was inaugural captain of the North Queensland Cowboys, the club which brother Ben now represents.
“They love it,” the younger Spina said of her football career.
“We’re obviously a sporting family and sport has just always been part of our lives for as long as I can remember. They’ve loved watching my journey and are very supportive.”
With horizons broadened by inter-state and international experiences, ‘Ash’ re-joined Roar for the 2015/16 season as the two-time champions went within a penalty shootout of a sixth Grand Final.
She says, while the workload and regular change of location can take its toll, the positives of a life in football outweigh any downside.
“Sometimes you do feel like a bit of a break if you’re constantly training but it’s created so many opportunities and so many experiences that at the moment it’s hard to imagine life without it. It’s pretty much involved travelling and always making new friends.”
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