Indiah-Paige Riley says she still “cannot quite believe” she is a Westfield Matilda – eight years after her football career began at The Lakes FC and Moreton Bay United.
The 19-year-old forward made her senior Australian international debut in Germany on Monday, becoming the 207th Matilda as she went on as a substitute for Caitlin Foord.
“Caitlin said ‘congrats’ as she came off … that’s when it sank in,” said Riley, a former Murrumba State Secondary College student.
Twenty-four hours after that moment Riley told Football Australia: “It’s actually so crazy. I still cannot quite believe it.
"The support and messages I have received have been overwhelming.
“It really does mean a lot. It’s an amazing feeling. I’m so grateful to be here and given the opportunity surrounded by such great athletes … and even better people.
“It’s an honour to be a Westfield Matilda. I hope I can honour everything that comes with it.”
Riley was told by Matildas’ Assistant Coach Mel Andreatta, who she played for at Brisbane Roar, that her moment had arrived.
“Mel told me ‘look at set pieces, you’re going on’,” recalls Riley, “I thought, okay .... and then she said ‘you’re on’.
“Seeing my number up on that (stadium) board …. it was surreal. It takes you back to all the sacrifices you have made - and my parents made - for me. It means a lot.
“I couldn’t wait to get out there. I had to run to the other side of the pitch, so I had a few moments get ready for what Germany was going to bring.
“Once over there I was like … okay, now it’s time, now it’s time. You’ve worked hard for this. Just relax, be confident and do everything right!”
The Matildas went down 5-2 in the international friendly, but Riley was right alongside forward Emily Gielnik as she scored both Australian goals in Weisbaden.
It was a far cry from the day in 2013 when she swapped rugby for football and joined The Lakes FC helping the club win the Under 12 Division Three Premiership.
After two years Riley joined Moreton Bay United in the state-level NPL helping them win the Under 15 Premiership in 2016 with 31 goals in 22 games.
David Da Silva, the current head coach of Moreton Bay United’s Women, coached Riley for the following three years in the Brisbane Roar Youth and NTC programs.
“She has always been a great kid,” said Da Silva, “always trying to improve and get better. You could see her quality when she came into the program.
“Indiah’s very quick and ruthless. Not the biggest player, but very athletic and works hard, really hard.
“I think age is on her side and I really look forward to seeing how she progresses from here.”
Riley made her debut for Brisbane Roar’s W-League team at 16 and last year signed a three-year contract with Danish side Fortuna Hjooring, playing 11 times and scoring three goals.
“The biggest decision was probably to leave my family at 18 and pursue a career in Denmark,” she says.
“To experience new things and overcome new challenges has been tremendous in my personal growth.
“I have to do my own grocery shopping, I have to walk to and from the shops, I have to be responsible for myself!
"I think it was what I needed to grow as a person.”
Indiah-Paige Riley's next challenge will come in Nijmegen on Wednesday when the Westfield Matildas face The Netherlands in another international friendly.
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