As NAIDOC Week celebrations continue, Football Queensland caught up with Townsville Warriors FC duo Nyssa Gostynski-Leo and Summer Walters who have shared the pitch for over 10 years, not only as teammates but as cousins and proud Indigenous young women.
Gostynski-Leo and Walters first began playing in the same football team at the ages of four and five respectively, with the former describing them as being “basically a package deal” when it comes to football.
“I’ve gotten to share nearly all my soccer experiences with her which is pretty cool when I think back,” Gostynski-Leo said.
“We’ve won together and lost together at club and rep levels which has made our bond really strong.”
Through their time playing at Townsville Warriors, the duo have made the most of opportunities to not only share their culture with their teammates especially in times like NAIDOC Week, but to be strong, positive representatives of their community and culture.
“As a young Indigenous woman, the significance of NAIDOC Week is that it is a time to commemorate and celebrate our longest living culture and learn about our history, stories, experiences,” Walters said.
“I am proud of my heritage and to be able to celebrate not just over a week but throughout my life is such a blessing.
“I share my culture with my teammates at Townsville Warriors by being a team player and by portraying a positive representation of my community and culture.”
“NAIDOC Week is incredibly important to me as it’s a national celebration of all things Indigenous: our history, our culture, our achievements,” Gostynski-Leo added.
“I’m always proud of my heritage but the feeling of solidarity that I feel during this week is unparalleled and very empowering.
“NAIDOC is also more than just a celebration, it’s an opportunity to learn more about my people and it brings more awareness to Indigenous issues.
“I share my culture with my teammates through my character as a team player and as a representation of my community and culture; I do this by doing everything with the intention of being the best teammate and goalkeeper that I can be.
“In this way, I also hope to challenge and change stereotypes and bias held against Indigenous people in sport within any team that I’m a part of.”
In addition to their experiences playing club football together, Gostynski-Leo and Walters have also played alongside each other as part of the Australian Indigenous Koalas team.
“Playing with the Koalas was a very special and memorable experience for me. In this team I didn’t only represent myself, I also represented my family, my mob and my culture,” Gostynski-Leo said.
“It was an amazing opportunity and one we definitely didn’t waste, especially when we competed in the 2019 Arafura Games and came home with a win.”
For Walters, being a member of the Indigenous Koalas side also provided a special opportunity to share her love of the game with older brother, Kyren Walters.
“Playing with the Koalas was an honour. It is one of my greatest achievements to have played in the very first Koalas team at the age of 15 and to be able to continue my journey now at the age of 17 is pretty incredible,” Walters said.
“Playing for a team with other Indigenous women, a team with such high standards meant that I was able to learn from my sisters and make lifelong memories. It was an honour representing my culture, family, and values.
“Additionally, to not only be given the opportunity to play alongside my cousin Nyssa but to be fortunate enough to have my big brother Kyren playing on the Indigenous Roos side was amazing.”
Sharing a bond not only as family members but also as teammates and passionate young footballers, Gostynski-Leo and Walters are looking forward to making many more memories together both on and off the pitch.
“She’s my little sister and best friend and seeing her growth not only on the field beside her but off the field as well is extra special,” Walters added.
“To be able to share my journey alongside my cousin is one of the best things ever and I wouldn’t want to share it with anyone else; through the good times and the bad times we’ve grown together and I can’t wait to continue my journey with her.”