To celebrate 10 years of the Westfield W-League, we chat with Adelaide United Women’s inaugural Captain, Dianne Cleary, née Alagich, about the early days of the competition and the game’s growth.
Dianne Alagich comes from a family with a strong footballing identity in Australia dating back to the 1930s.
And Alagich continued that family tradition. She accumulated 86 caps for the Matildas between 1995 and 2008 and represented her country in three World Cups and two Olympic Games.
Her brother, Richie, was also a footballer and amassed over 80 matches in four seasons with the Reds before retiring professionally in 2008.
Alagich said having the chance to play for her hometown Club in the 2008/09 campaign as well as being bestowed the captaincy was something she looks back on with fondness.
“I remember it being a great honour,” reminisced Alagich, who now lives in Sydney.
“Especially the opportunity to play for Adelaide United, having my brother play for the Club and having that opportunity to represent the state with Adelaide United was one of the better honours of my career actually.”
A few years prior to joining the Reds, Alagich spent time plying her trade in the United States with the now defunct San Jose CyberRays.
Her memories of the Westfield W-League in its infancy were positive.
“It was all fresh and very exciting having that opportunity to play in the W-League,” she said.
“I played professionally overseas a few years before the inaugural season and just the opportunity to play back into a professional team was really a highlight.
“And it was sort of at the end of my career as well so it was a real memorable time for me to be able to be involved in such a professional Club and be able to be the captain of the team.”
Since retiring from football, Alagich has ventured into coaching and recently worked in Cairns at former Hyundai A-League midfielder Zenon Caravella’s football academy.
The defender claimed she was not surprised with how far the competition has come.
“The standard of the competition over the years is just increasing every year,” Alagich said, who was inducted into the Football Federation Australia Hall of Champions in 2011.
“There’s so many more registered players and girls playing so I’m definitely not surprised it’s just really great to see the standard is improving every year and dramatically improving.
“Like that inaugural year to the standard now it has just improved so much.”
Alagich insisted the league still has substantial room for progress and will continue flourishing if the game receives sufficient media coverage.
“It’s untapped potential really,” she said.
“It’s just a matter of being able to still receive funding and having the games on Fox and getting more media attention and things like that.
“That’s just going to increase participation, increase people’s awareness and just being more in the media and on TV, so just your average Joe is watching it.
“I just notice how many people come up to me and say they’ve enjoyed this season and that happens more and more now, that it’s accessible to people.”
Adelaide United host Brisbane Roar in Round 13 of the Westfield W-League 2017/18 season on Sunday, 28 January at Marden Sports Complex. Kick-off is at 6.00pm ACDT.