Chelsie Dawber’s journey to where she is now is one of perseverance.
The 20-year-old has already had to overcome two major setbacks in her burgeoning career, but from those encounters have built a resolve only one with those experiences can have.
In 2016 she suffered a severe form of post-concussion syndrome having sustained a head injury playing futsal.
“Pretty much I didn’t know I was concussed in the sense that I kept playing probably all weekend,” Dawber recalls.
“I came back and played a few more basketball games and I couldn’t even do a crossover and mum was like, ‘get off you’re playing rubbish’ and then went to the doctors and it took a long time to get over it.”
The striker recovered and made her Westfield W-League debut a year later, featuring in nine matches.
However, the following 2018/19 campaign, Dawber was limited to just the solitary appearance due to stress fractures in both of her shins.
It was certainly a frustrating time for the Adelaide attacker.
But a sensational, bounce back year with Adelaide City in the local Women’s National Premier League saw her career get back on track.
She scored a total of 33 goals across all competitions and also enjoyed a breakout Westfield W-League season.
Two goals and as many assists in nine matches, along with her impressive displays culminated in receiving the Rising Star award.
After another prolific showing in this season’s WNPL with the Black and Whites, Dawber is hoping to replicate her scoring form at a higher level.
“I’d like to build on the last season that I had and even in the WNPL this year, try and transfer some of those goals and confidence in myself and push that into W-League and be successful this year,” she said.
Dawber was introduced to the game she loves at just four years old by her father and older brother, but also revealed her passion for basketball.
“I’ve one older brother and one younger brother that both play soccer and my dad used to play soccer,” she explained.
“I played lots of different sports. I played basketball up until I was 17 at state level and premier league level in basketball as well.
“But I guess soccer took over in the end and I played ever since.”
And it was with the Australia U-17 side when Dawber began to believe she could make it at the elite level.
That belief was only reaffirmed after a strong showing in the Westfield W-League last year.
“I think getting a little taste in the under 17 Young Matildas that kind of gave that little bit of belief in myself that I could make it,” she admitted.
“But it wasn’t probably until last season with Adelaide United where I got to play and wasn’t injured, that I had belief that I can get to the Matildas and I can make a career out of soccer, but I’ve got to keep trying.”
Playing with confidence is an important part of Dawber’s mindset and key to her success, perhaps more so than most.
She said last season was very much a turning point where she felt like she fully belonged.
“My coaches last year really believed in me and that made me change as a player,” she said.
“It gave me that self-confidence, and confidence around me and all my other teammates and I think that was a big reason for me to be able to perform on the pitch.”
Dawber went onto to confess she does harbour ambitions to take her talents abroad in the future.
However, she intimated that possibility would take care of itself if she continues to perform for the Reds.
“At the moment I’m still studying because you never know what’s going to happen,” she stated.
“But ideally I’d like to go and play overseas and pursue my soccer career, who knows, but I have to play well this year and see where that takes me.”
Optional pre-season training has already begun ahead of the new campaign and Dawber fancies United’s chances of finally securing a maiden finals appearance.
“I think the vibe is definitely different from the past few years,” she continued.
“We’re all a lot closer, and we’re all probably around a similar age and we’ve played together for a long time.
“So I think that’s going to be really helpful in terms of the team bond on the pitch, and I’m really excited to play with the girls and I think finals are in sight this year.”