Born in Scotland, Sian Fryer-McLaren has lived and breathed football her entire life.
However, Fryer-McLaren’s path into being an accomplished goalkeeper was rather coincidental.
The 29-year-old returns to Adelaide United Women for the impending Westfield W-League 2020/21 season.
It will be her third stint with the Club and the shot-stopper feels more confident in her game than ever before.
“My family are die hard Rangers fans so I kind of always grew up around football,” She explained.
“And then my brother started playing when I was younger and I just kind of idolised him and wanted to do what he was doing.
“So that’s how I got into it and then I just started out playing for obviously my school team and it just went from there really.”
Fryer-McLaren moved to Australia when she was five years old and started playing for her school team.
However, it was not long before she decided to move to a women’s club on the advice of a referee.
“I played for my school team and then a referee that was involved in the women’s game kind of said to me you should trial for like a women’s club,” she said.
“So my first proper club was Sturt Marion so I played at Sturt for nine years in the juniors and then moved into the premier team at Sturt as well.
“And that’s when I first made it into United around that time, I think I was about 17.”
But while she has since played more than 30 games at the elite level, Fryer-McLaren revealed she never began as a goalkeeper.
As fate would have it, a series of events altered the course of her career and embraced the change.
“I didn’t start out as a goalkeeper,” she stated.
“I always played on the field and then I got picked in the state team and went to the national championships on the field and our goalkeeper got injured.
“And they put me in and I got identified by the Future Matildas coach saying I’ve got a bit of potential in goal.
“My coach Tracey Jenkins at the time was like, ‘If you want to really do something with this I think you should be a goalkeeper’.”
It since worked. Fryer-McLaren made her Reds debut in the inaugural 2008/09 campaign and admitted the women’s game has come a long way since those early years in the competition.
“It’s no secret football for the women has come a long way,” she said.
“It was still like a great experience to be going and playing against other women of the highest level around the country.
“The quality of football has obviously improved a lot as well.”
After four years and 24 appearances, Fryer-McLaren departed United and signed with Sydney FC ahead of the 2012/13 season which culminated in a Championship triumph following a 3-1 away win over Melbourne Victory.
The goalkeeper discussed her reasons behind the move.
“I was involved in the Young Matildas squad so my coach was Alen Stajcic at the time,” she said.
“I was always in that second spot for the Young Matildas and I just thought that by going over to Sydney and Staj was the coach of Sydney FC at the time, I thought if he could see more of me in that starting position it might help me get that step further.
“I also wanted to have a bit of a challenge, I had been in the premier league in South Australia for five or so years by that point.
“And the quality of football in the Eastern States because they had a bit more funding into their women and stuff so by going over there it was just the next step for me.”
During her time in New South Wales, Fryer-McLaren also studied to become a physical education teacher at the Australian College of Physical Education.
After the completion of her degree, she returned home and confessed she never considered playing football again.
However, local Women’s National Premier League side, Salisbury Inter, approached her and talked her into continuing.
“I played two seasons with Sydney and I went over and studied there as well and by the time I had to finish my degree I was just like time to come back,” she explained.
“I came back and I had no intentions of playing soccer again, I was kind of just focusing on work and that.
“Then Salisbury actually approached me, and then said, can you come out and I said I’d give it a go and I kind of just got a love for it again.”
Although she continued playing, football did take somewhat of a backseat as her focus shifted to her career and personal life.
Regardless, Fryer-McLaren’s strong form with Salisbury did secure a return to the Reds in 2018, three years after leaving Sydney.
She served as back-up for Sarah Willacy for the 2018/19 campaign.
But after another solid season in 2020, the former Sky Blues ‘keeper felt the time was right for another comeback.
“In the 18/19 season I came back and I hadn’t obviously played football at that level for like six years,” she said.
“So it was good to be back involved but my partner and I had a baby at the end of that season.
“I basically had a newborn around the house so I couldn’t really focus on football, it wasn’t really top of my list.
“But he’s a bit older now and there’s a bit more flexibility with my time management, so I thought Sarah’s gone to another club and it’s a really good opportunity for me to maybe get that starting position back and I thought why not.”
The experience Fryer-McLaren will be able to share amongst the girls will further be invaluable to the squad.
She added the fact that she is extremely comfortable with her own game – more than any other time in her career – is another benefit according to the 29-year-old.
“I think it’s super important,” she believed about leadership.
“I kind of have gotten to a point in my career where I feel like I’ve really matured as a footballer.
“You never really look back on like when you’re at that age and think I’m so mature as a footballer.
“But now having been there and gone through all of these things I’m comfortable with who I am as a player and my abilities.
“So I think it’s going to be good for me to be around girls and kind of try and share that wisdom I guess.
“It’s exciting because I’ve never been to this point in my career so comfortable and mature as a player, so it will be good to see what I can bring to those girls.”
The goalkeeper admitted it will be a fascinating season given the more level playing field with a host of Matildas playing abroad.
“I think it will be really interesting to see,” she continued.
“We’ve been competitive in the league but not really had the results that we’ve needed.
“With those big names and big players gone and we’ve been competitive in the past it will be really interesting to see how we do this season.
“With Stents (Adrian Stenta) being Head Coach and Ivan (Karlović) sticking around things kind of remain a little bit unchanged.
“Obviously Stents has his own flavour but it’s pretty much building the momentum of what’s been in place for the last three or four years.”