AS a youngster who loved to watch her brother play football, Nikia Webber asked her dad if she could do the same.
He was against the idea because he perceived football as a masculine sport at the time. But after persistence from a young Webber, she got the opportunity to kick a footy around in a local team.
“Dad wouldn’t let me play because I was a girl,” she said. “Then I sort of just kept asking and asking and he sort of just gave in so then I played my first game in under 12s and then from there on, I just loved the game.”
Webber concedes that her father was not happy with the idea of his little princess playing football, but came around to it eventually.
“Because I’m his little princess, obviously he was pretty upset when I said I wanted to play footy, it wasn’t a girls sport at the time,” she said. “But now that he’s seen how far I’ve gone, he sort of agrees with what I’m doing now so that’s probably a positive out of that one.”
Her Dad also now takes time out of his weekend, along with her Mum, to take her wherever she needs to be, helping her to achieve her dream of playing AFL Women’s. Webber said that representing Vic Country at this year’s AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships made her want to seriously chase this dream and make it a reality.
“That experience made me want to pursue my dream and play AFLW,” the 17 year-old said. “It was a really good confidence-builder.”
She also admits that the experience was surreal, as she got to play with and against some of the most talented female footballers in the country.
“It was overwhelming up there” the Gippsland forward said. “It didn’t feel real until I was actually up there playing in those colours against all the other teams. “It was a really good experience because I’m such a young age so it was really good.”
Despite being a young age, Webber found herself stepping up as a leader in the Gippsland Power side. Although it was a big step-up, she benefited from being able to pass on her knowledge to the young, up-and-coming players.
“This year was a big step-up,” she said. “Obviously I was one of the older ones so all the new girls that we had come into the program, I sort of got to show them around, (show them) what I did and where I started from. “It gave them an opportunity and gave them an open mindset to be who I am.”
She realised she had leadership capabilities thanks to a stellar year in the forward line where she kicked 12 goals in eight games.
“In previous years, I was sort of quiet and now this year, I sort of realised that I can be one of those players who stands up and obviously kick a few goals and be a team leader, even though I wasn’t in the leadership group,” the 17 year-old said.
Webber has certainly come a long way since her first year in the Power program as a 14 year-old. She admits that it was pretty daunting to start playing for an elite side, but is thankful that she had an older player, who was her mentor, to show her the ropes.
“In that environment with the older girls, I didn’t know what to do or what I was in for,” the Vic Country representative said. “It was pretty weird. “I had a mentor so one of the older girls took me under their wing and sort of showed me around, what to do, what not to do. “It was really good. “If I didn’t have the mentor, I would be lost. “I was so nervous going in through those doors, seeing all those high-skilled girls and they were all older than me, so yeah I was pretty nervous.”
Before receiving this opportunity, Webber was a dedicated basketballer, venturing off to the sport after her Dad said she couldn’t take up football. She says her training was intense, and after getting sick of the high-pressure environment, she decided to pursue a career in football instead.
“I was training for that (basketball) non-stop,” Webber said. “I had a personal trainer, I went into all the basketball camps and then decided that I didn’t want to play basketball anymore so that’s when I took on footy.”
She has not looked back since then, and has had a breakout year in 2018. After being the Power’s leading goal kicker during the TAC Cup Girls season, she went on to represent Vic Country up on the Gold Coast to cap off a wonderful football season.