Newcomers to the Westfield W-League could be forgiven for thinking Karly Roestbakken is by some distance older than 18.
The adaptable defender is a popular figure at Canberra United, having just completed her third season, and is one of the capital club’s most reliable performers.
That became clear during an excellent individual campaign that has earned her a nomination as one of three candidates to be nominated for NAB Young Footballer of the Year.
Roestbakken’s campaign in Opta stats
Story of the season
It’s telling that with Roestbakken unavailable, and their Finals Series hopes on the line, Canberra were condemned to a 4-1 defeat against Brisbane Roar in late January that all but ended their campaign.
Heather Garriock’s side had conceded only once in their previous meeting with Roar, and just twice in the three matches leading up to the trip to Queensland.
But the absence of the versatile, technically adept Roestbakken due to an inflammation of the heart – Garriock at the time assured “it sounds worse that what it is” – proved a considerable hindrance.
The 18-year-old returned for the season-ending clash with Melbourne Victory and duly helped her side to a clean sheet, a more fitting finish for a player who had cemented her place as a key cog in the Green Machine.
That was her 10th start of a season in which she emerged as a model of consistency despite being asked to perform multiple roles throughout.
Roestbakken also found time to feature for the Young Matildas in the 2019 AFC U-19 Women’s Championship qualifiers in Myanmar and higher honours do not appear beyond a player that has clearly been educated at the same school for young achievers as team-mate Ellie Carpenter.
Why she is a good shout to be NAB Young Footballer of the Year
Where many of her peers might benefit from high-performing stars soaking up the bulk of the pressure, limelight and expectation – leaving the youngsters free to blossom at their own pace – Roestbakken had no such luxury.
Canberra finished eighth on the ladder and yet still the teenager was able to perform consistently – a quality expected to elude a young player – while occupying an undisputed place in head coach Garriock’s first-choice XI.