Extra Time: Rigby on the 'respectful fear' Kerr commands

Natasha Rigby can only imagine what it is like standing across from Sam Kerr in the tunnel.

She'll be fortunate enough to be queuing up behind the Westfield Matildas star when her Perth Glory side head out to do battle in the rebel Female Football Round this weekend.

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Sunday night's opponents are Melbourne City and Rigby knows what even the three-time reigning Champions will be feeling about the prospect of facing Kerr.

"It's like a respectful fear," she told the w-league.com.au.

"She knows pretty much 100 per cent of the girls playing in the W-League personally so seeing her you're just terrified because you know what sort of force is going to be running at the backline.

 

"I know of course I would be frightened but I also know the amount of respect that every player in the league has for her."

That respect comes from what so many have observed, a talent which is enhanced by a resilience to be changed by all of the awards and adulation.

Rigby added: "Not only is she an incredible footballer and has that extra level, she is one of the most down-to-earth people I have ever met.

"In terms of how much attention she has got, she just manages to stay so humble and so attentive as well.

"She's not only a fantastic player but an amazing leader and our team couldn't hope for anyone more.

"When she speaks she speaks on behalf of the team and she's always doing the best for the team, it's not about individuals in any way shape or form, and that is what makes her a really charismatic person to be around."

Playing alongside one of Australia's biggest sporting stars is a far cry from Rigby's humble beginnings, growing up in the rural Western Australian town of Margaret River. 

Natasha Rigby
Natasha Rigby has established herself as a first-team regular for Perth Glory

"It's the greatest place on earth," she said. "But there's only one school in the whole town and only like 50 of us graduated from my year so it's a really little town, but there's an amazing sense of community.

"I think that community really helped shape me to be the person I am today because it was such a supporting, close-knit town that everyone was really looking out for each other."

Growing up in a small town 270km south of Perth presented many challenges in the pursuit of her dream to play in the Westfield W-League.

She said: "We couldn't play in a girls team because there wasn't a girls only one, but I didn't really see that as a challenge but it is a limitation.

"There wasn't even the option of playing with girls, which I find would've put off a lot of girls growing up, but luckily enough I had some friends who I went down with to play with the boys.

"I made the state team from the age of 15 to 17 so during that time I had to travel three hours to training, which we did three times a week, so if I didn't have supportive parents there is no way I'd be doing what I'm doing now."

All that hark word paid off in 2016 when Rigby made her breakthrough to the Perth first-team, operating as a full-back on both flanks to help Glory progress to the Westfield W-League 2016/17 Grand Final.

"I came in at a really pivotal time," she added. "When I entered into the W-League there was a shift and all of a sudden the world kind of started to taking notice of women's football.

"From where it was before to where it is now in my third season, it's grown so much, not only the coverage we're getting but it's also the support.

"The PFA have done incredible work with the CBA bringing in the minimum wage for players and that gives young girls a lot hope before you were playing for the love of the game not for the money.

"I remember my first season I spent more on playing football than I received, so to be able to see it as a viable income as well as something you absolutely love is incredible.

"Not only that but also the role models that have come about. You see your Sam Kerrs, Alanna Kennedys and Gema Simons, who have become these incredible role models for young girls growing up and they're doing all the right things.