If there is a Goulburn Valley footballer that strikes more fear into opposition players than Alicia Rowan, they would be hard to find.
The most lethal of strikers, Rowan proved unstoppable through Shepparton South’s run to the Bendigo Amateur Soccer League grand final last season, netting a whopping 62 goals in 23 games to top the scoring charts.
It took scoring in local leagues to a whole new level, no player since 2012 in either the Goulburn North East Football Association women’s division or the BASLW having scored more than 39 goals.
Rowan caught up with the News’ Youth Academy scouts to discuss her promising career to date — and which nets will be rippling this season.
Into the Lions’ den
Having scored for Shepparton’s open women’s side aged just 12, Rowan’s ability to find the back of the net is ingrained in her DNA.
Rowan’s goal-scoring prowess has opened doors for her footballing career and she has moved to Melbourne to further her legacy with State League One outfit Preston Lions.
Youth Academy: What are your plans for football this year?
Alicia Rowan: I moved down to Melbourne where I am studying, so that is the main goal, but I also want to better myself in terms of soccer and really challenge myself too, so I’ve joined the Preston Lions.
I have been doing pre-season training with them since December and am competing in the Nike Cup at the moment, training twice a week and Sundays.
YA: Are you playing up front with Preston?
AR: At the moment I am playing as a striker, I feel like I haven’t really shown what I can bring to the table just yet because of all the competition around.
I’m starting as a striker, but the coach has played me as a number 10, which I am getting adjusted to at the moment.
YA: What has the change been like from Shepparton South?
AR: It’s a big change, it’s more intense I guess. It is really fast-paced soccer.
It is really competitive down in Melbourne with about 40 girls competing for the senior team, you just have to put your best foot forward.
Having paid her dues to the local footballing scene, Rowan has donned various different strips for a handful of clubs in the region.
Her years of persistence and hard work out on the Goulburn Valley greens have led to the 19-year-old being identified as a serious threat in front of goal.
YA: When did you start playing open age?
AR: When I was 12 or 13, around then. It was really different as I was quite young compared to all the other girls. It was hard being a smaller body amongst the bigger bodies which was very intimidating.
But it was when I played at Cobram when I stepped up and became better as a player because of the harder competition.
Playing for the senior women’s side there was really tough as they were all really good.
I started with the senior women’s on the bench and then I made my way into the starting 11 a few games in, we had a really solid team that worked together well.
YA: How did it feel scoring 60-plus goals last season?
AR: To be honest it wasn’t always me that did it, I want to be as humble as possible. It always starts from other people, it was never just me on my own doing it.
My whole team was the base of support that created all the magic and I just happened to be there to finish it off. I was just in the right spots at the right time.
YA: Shepparton South made it all the way to the grand final last season — what was the season like?
AR: The season was great, we stepped up in terms of playing our structure with Ralph (Giuliani), he is a really good coach.
Our pre-season was insanely hard, but we learned our structure really well and and meshed as a team. More than half of us were new and we worked well together.
YA: Have you always played up front as a striker?
AR: I have always played in the middle actually. I started off as a centre midfielder or a right winger and I played in those positions throughout my seasons with Shepparton and Cobram, last year was my first year as a striker.
Ralph asked me at the start of the season what position I play and I said ‘midfield’, and he said ‘you are going to play as my striker this season’.
YA: Have there been any coaches or figures that have served as mentors throughout your career?
AR: I would have to say George Razmovski when I was really young, he was my first proper coach. And definitely Ralph (Giuliani) as well, he is probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He always put in a lot of effort with me, especially after training, staying an extra half an hour later to practice shooting for goal with me and stuff like that.
As well as my coaches my partner Tom and my family have been a huge support, especially my little sister Mikayla, this will be the first time in eight years that we won’t be playing together.
YA: What is the standard of women’s football in the region?
AR: I think in the Goulburn Valley it is on a decline at the moment because of women’s footy and things like that.
Everyone seems to want to have a go at that, so we have lost a couple of players at South to the footy which is upsetting, but you can’t really do anything about it.
YA: Who is your footballing idol?
AR: I like Sam Kerr, she is fast-paced and she scores all the goals. It is just crazy the way she plays.
YA: What is your favourite footballing moment?
AR: When I won the league best-and-fairest in 2015. I set myself the goal at the start of that year to become one of the best in the league and put my heart into it and I got the result in the end which was great.
YA: What has been a low point in your career?
AR: Definitely when I injured myself, I ruptured the ligaments in my ankle. I was out for roughly eight weeks and I basically just sat on the couch.
Sitting on the sideline really frustrates me especially when we aren’t playing the best, I’d rather be a part of the action doing everything for the team.
YA:If you could play for any team, who would it be?
AR: I’d love to play for the Matildas, obviously that’s every girl’s dream. That’s what I wanted to do when I was younger, I wanted to play professional soccer.
YA: What is your next career goal?
AR: I would like to see if I can get into the National Premier League, that would probably be the next step.
But I will just see how I go with this season, if I can adjust to the fast-paced environment.
Youth Academy is an ongoing investigation into the Goulburn Valley’s footballing wonderkids. Each week we will profile an upcoming talent who has captured the attention of the local football scene.