Souths United junior Lilly Rae has secured the footballing move of a lifetime, joining the Regional Talent Club (RTC) at English Premier League side Stoke City.
Lilly played in the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues U13 for Souths United in 2016, and scored an astonishing 54 goals in 18 matches for her team.
The former Queensland representative will now train and play with Stoke City Girls RTC, a program that has a proven track record of providing young players with an avenue to the first team.
85% of women involved in Stoke City’s first team and reserves have attended the girls RTC.
Images: Rae Family
Lilly will compete against the likes of Aston Villa, Chelsea and Everton once fixtures kick off for the 2017/18 RTC season.
Lilly has already started training at Stoke, and is eager to soak up as much experience from the club as possible.
“I am so excited to be playing at Stoke City, I’m looking forward to being tested and accepting the new challenge,” said Lilly.
Garry French, Girls Technical Director at Souths United, believes Lilly has the ability to make an impact at any club.
“She’s at a different level; she has a powerful shot on her and an excellent first touch. She’s always aware of what is around her,” said French.
“I wasn’t surprised by the number of goals she scored for Souths.”
Lilly with cousin and Manchester U16s goalkeeper Alex Everett.
French pointed towards Lilly’s determined spirit as reason for optimism about her footballing development.
“She’s a young girl enjoying her football, it would upset her if she didn’t play well but she is always striving to get better,” French said.
French coached Lilly for two years at Souths, but the man tasked with overseeing the next stage is Stoke RTC Technical Director Andy Holmes.
Holmes played in the Football League for Stoke and Doncaster Rovers, and uses his experience to guide the next generation of Stoke female footballers. He spoke highly of Lilly’s potential.
“Lilly is a player we are delighted to have attracted to Stoke City RTC. She has shown a lot of potential over a trial period, and we look forward to developing her game,” said Holmes.
Lilly’s father Jason is relieved that his daughter now has some stability after the lengthy trial process.
“The process was mentally and physically draining. It was really insane and really intense,” Jason said.
“This journey she is on will make her a better person. The discipline of it all is out of this world.”
Lilly was a relative unknown when she arrived at the trials but her talent helped her stand out, as did the colour of her jersey.
“Lilly wore her Queensland kit and we’d see other kids wearing training kits from Manchester City and other clubs,” said Jason.
“She was proud to wear her Queensland gear.”