This week’s episode of A-Leagues All Access centres on Sydney FC captain Natalie Tobin. Watch the full episode on Thursday night, 7.30pm AEDT on KEEPUP.
Five minutes into her Liberty A-League career, Natalie Tobin had a champions medal draped around her neck.
It’s been more than a decade since that day in January 2013 and Tobin, despite reaching a further four title deciders with Sydney FC, has yet to reach the summit of the domestic league since that “crazy” debut in Sky Blue.
Last season ended with Tobin’s fourth Grand Final defeat, and first as Sydney captain. The 26-year-old is heading into the 2022-23 Finals Series eager to bury the demons of past campaigns, and go where no Sydney team has ever gone before in the club’s glistening A-League Women history.
“It’s an expectation that we have, playing for Sydney FC: It’s a club that wins trophies – and it’s a big club,” Tobin told KEEPUP.
“We’ve never not made the finals series for the A-League Women, we want to obviously continue that legacy. This year we’ve done that – and gone to extremes, I guess you’d say, in terms of winning the Premiership – now, we’d really like to do the double.
I don’t think we’ve done that in our history, so it would be pretty incredible to achieve it this season, and I definitely think we have the capacity to do so.
But the Sky Blues’ hopes of notching that historic double took a hit last weekend; the Premiers hosted Western United in the Semi Final, and fell to a 1-0 defeat at Allianz Stadium. Tobin’s side did not intend to put their double chance to use, but they suddenly find themselves in a do-or-die Preliminary Final on Saturday afternoon against arch-rival Melbourne Victory.
Tobin was shadowed throughout the Semi Final week by A-Leagues All Access; she’s the star of this week’s episode, titled One More Chance. The episode goes behind the scenes of Sydney’s 1-0 loss to Western, while telling the story of the club captain who, incredibly, is the only member of the Sky Blues squad who works a full-time job alongside her football.
The episode shows the sacrifices made by Tobin to pursue two professions; four times a week the Sydney captain’s day begins with club training in the early hours of the morning. Then, it’s off to work as an Occupational Therapist.
The All Access crew follows Tobin from training to the office, where she works at Royal Rehab, as she prepares for another day visiting clients over the age of 65 and helping them get back into their daily routines after being discharged from hospital.
“I’m the only one in the team who works full-time,” Tobin explains to All Access. “I really find it difficult, especially with morning trainings, because you have to run off, you’re not able to stretch, or roll, or see the physio after training… I just have to go.
“Yeah, it’s difficult. A lot of girls comment (saying) they don’t know how I do it.
But I never got anything given to me. So I guess I always had that work ethic instilled in me, from mum and dad, which I’m very grateful for.
Tobin’s gratitude extends to her boss, who understands the unique demands of her professional life.
“It’s honestly such a game-changer having someone who is so understanding,” Tobin tells All Access. “The flexibility is just what you need as an elite athlete.”
She hopes to be putting that flexibility to use on Grand Final week.
“If we make the Grand Final, I might need the Monday off!” Tobin says to her boss.
“Yeah, of course – you should lock it in now!” her boss replies.
But after Semi Final defeat to Western, it’s no guarantee Sydney will take a place in the decider at CommBank Stadium on April 30.
As a club, the Sky Blues are a curious A-League Women case study. No club has won more than Sydney’s eight trophies – yet the bulk of those have come in the form of Premierships (five). Sydney have won just three Championships throughout the league’s 14-year history, despite making the Finals Series in each and every campaign to date.
No side has lost more Grand Finals than Sydney, either. They’ve reached nine of 14 title deciders, tasting defeat in six of them.
Tobin was on hand for the club’s second Championship, coming on as an 85th-minute substitute at just 16 years of age as a Sky Blues side featuring Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord, Kyah Simon and Alanna Kennedy defeated Melbourne Victory 3-1.
Tobin can’t believe how far she’s come since her league debut.
“It’s pretty crazy to think back that far about it,” Tobin says. “I remember I just used to get very nervous, and my mindset was that I just didn’t want to make a mistake when I’m out there. Whereas now, it’s like I want to put my best foot forward. I want to win, I know how we can win. I want to play with confidence. I want to make those crunching tackles, I want to score those goals, and play my best every game.
“I have the experience now to know how to do that, regardless of environment, the (feeling) we’ve got, if I’ve had a bad day or not feeling as energised as I’d like to be. I just know how to kind of overcome it now, and I think that comes with experience.”
Despite being just 26 years of age, Tobin is one of the most experienced campaigners in the A-League Women, and is desperate to reach her sixth Grand Final to have another crack at her second domestic Championship.
She’s fuelled by the thoughts that cluttered her mind in the aftermath of last season’s heart-breaking loss to Victory on the league’s final day – the second in successive years to the same opponent.
Sydney came into this season’s Finals Series as both Premiers and Grand Final runners-up for the third time running.
But if Victory is Sydney’s Grand Final ‘kryptonite’, then Saturday’s Preliminary Final poses the perfect opportunity for the Sky Blues to eliminate the back-to-back Champions prior to the league’s final day.
It’s an opportunity Tobin is determined to make the most of.
“Everyone was pretty defeated last year after we lost the Grand Final for the third time consecutively,” Tobin told All Access.
“That’s all I’ve been thinking about, winning this Grand Final. We’ve got to win it this year. That defeated feeling last season, it’s not something I want to experience again.
That’s on our mind. We’re going in there, and I think we’ll kill it. Time for redemption.
Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory
Liberty A-League Preliminary Final
Saturday 22nd April
Allianz Stadium, Sydney, NSW
Kick Off: 3pm AEST
Gates Open: 2pm AEST
Broadcast Live: Paramount+ & 10Play
Tickets: Click Here
Produced by KEEPUP Studios and JAMTV, each new episode of the docuseries will debut on Thursday at 7:30pm AEDT on 10 Play, KEEPUP.COM.AU, the KEEPUP app. It will be available on Australia’s fastest growing streaming service, Paramount+, and will then be broadcast on 10 Bold at 2:00pm AEDT on Sunday afternoons as an appetiser for the evening’s Isuzu UTE A-League Men game on the same channel.