Western United’s inaugural Liberty A-League Women team has captivated Australian football this season.
A team filled with talented young players, many playing professionally for the first time, has gone toe to toe with some of the nations best female athletes and remains on the brink of a history-making campaign.
But before the players, the staff, the coaches, the training equipment and everything else was in place, there was one person that started it all.
Amanda Stella is the leader that has brought Western United to life in the Liberty A-League, and she sees the reward when looking back on that time when she started right from square one.
“It was a big thing to try and turn around in a few months, which is where most of the rewarding part comes from because now we can see how far along the journey we’ve gone and how successful we’ve become,” she said.
While Stella admits that her life journey would have been very different had her daughter not started playing football 10 years ago, she now finds herself right at home.
Without a degree in sport and without playing the game or being involved throughout her childhood, she might well have had cause to stop at being a team manager for her daughter’s team.
But as all leaders often do, Stella identified an opportunity for personal growth and to make a difference in her community, ultimately becoming United’s Women’s Football Manager.
“For me it was about taking that next step all of the time, so then opportunities came up to be on the committee, then secretary, then senior team manager and President for the last few years,” she said.
“For me personally, I knew I had the attributes to be able to do it, it was just finding people that are willing to back me. I don’t have a sports degree, I didn’t play, and those sorts of things sometimes can work against you.
“That’s not going to stop here, I have aspirations to continue to grow as a person and I look forward to all the additional challenges that come along the way with working in a football club.”
That’s what’s important about being the best version of yourself, is that you never stop trying to be better.
Stella has now become entrenched in this industry and has used every experience she has had along the way to formulate her approach to leading Western United’s women’s team.
Alongside the likes of Helen Winterburn and Sharna Naidu in the Liberty A-League football department and all of Western United’s female administration staff, Stella and Western United are paving the way for further female involvement in elite sport.
On International Women’s Day, Stella reflected on what being a female leader in sport means to her, on the progress that has been made and on the challenges that still need to be overcome.
“International Women’s Day is about recognising that we need to continually work to create equality across the genders, and although we have actively closed this gap, there is still further progress to be made,” she said.
“My thoughts are at some point, IWD can move to focus on other diversities within our community so we are continually growing as a society that promotes equality and inclusion.
“People are always like ‘why don’t women work in sport?’ Women don’t work in sport because it’s really difficult, it takes a big toll on your everyday life and how much time you have for other things.
“Sport is really hard – for someone who has a family – to work in, because of the demands. You can’t switch off, even if you wanted to there’s never an opportunity to just go ‘I’m not going to think about work today’.
“As we get better as the years go on and we support women at all different levels of employment within sporting clubs, we need to think about those things.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s a difficult environment if you have other pressures in your life.”
Overcoming these difficulties is easier said than done, but Stella believes in one simple attitude that can help women make their careers in sport.
“Confidence and belief in yourself are the main things in these sort of roles. You need to be able to back yourself and be confident when you make a decision,” she said.
I think this is a perfect job for me because I get to use leadership, communication, understanding, compassion every single day in some way shape or form.
Looking forwards, Stella doesn’t see herself doing anything else and remains committed to impacting the female football community in the West.
“Our Club is just starting in female football. For me, the pinnacle will be when we have our own full academy from junior girls up to A-League,” she said.
“I think I will stay in this space for a long time to come. I find it really rewarding, and I think as long as there’s still that drive to be competitive and succeed, I’ll continue and you just never know where I’ll end up,” she said.
Stella has watched Western United’s women’s program come to life within the last 12 months, building a legacy in the West that will continue to impact young girls for years to come.