To be a diver in football is usually frowned upon. But an exception to this rule is found in the shape of Gabrielle Marzano. The forward for Perth Glory in Australia’s W-League has, in the space of a year, ticked off two unlikely ambitions: to play football at the highest level, and to become a qualified diver in the Australian army. The latter is particularly significant, with Marzano the first female to earn such a rank in Australia.
Her football dreams were similarly improbable. In an era when many senior players come through the traditional development pathways, Marzano took a very different route. Marzano was playing club football at a modest level in Sydney’s second tier competition, when she decided to reach out for the seemingly unattainable. Sure enough, sheer resolve as much as anything landed her a contract in the ranks of Perth Glory’s all-star W-League premiership-winning side.
Realising a dream
Marzano’s back-story would make a seasoned traveller’s head spin. She was born in the tiny rural town of Hervey, grew up in Townsville, attended military college in Canberra, lived briefly in Sydney, was posted to Brisbane with the army, before a football-based move to Perth.
The latter was a shot at an implausible goal. With no top-level experience, Marzano decided to chase a spot in a talented Glory squad that includes several key players from the Australia side, who will compete in June’s FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Canada. Having pestered Glory coach Jamie Harnwell for a trial, Marzano crossed the country paying her own way for a week-long audition. As it transpired, Marzano was the only one of 30 aspirants to make the cut.
“I really wanted to achieve the dream of playing in the W-League,” Marzano told FIFA.com. “I’m grateful the way the stars aligned. I think the fitness aspect that army life brings certainly helped me out, especially in terms of cardio fitness. And most definitely the army’s discipline and professionalism is translatable to the football field.”
Marzano became the first female Australian Army diver last year. “It (football) has been great exposure for both the army and Perth Glory,” said Marzano who holds the rank of lieutenant and is also an engineer in the Army. “A commanding officer had to approve flexible work arrangements. I’m lucky to have such supportive bosses, they wanted to see me play in the W-League.”
Marzano’s specialisation as a diver involves search tasks, survey or recovery missions. The next step in her rare underwater world is to work with explosives. Before then the 23-year-old is aiming to achieve the rank of army captain, around the same time that the new W-League season starts later this year.
With a seemingly permanent relaxed demeanour and smile in her voice, Marzano tells of early forays into football. “I started playing football when about five or six,” she says. “I always loved the game. It’s fair to say I was a 100 per-cent tomboy, and loved running around playing sport with the boys. I didn’t want a bar of dolls or any of that kind of thing.”
Fast forward to the present day, and Marzano is enjoying every minute of her new-found life in football. Almost predictably her ambitions are grander still. “I think now it is a matter of getting my game time up, and playing more alongside these top players. I’m hopeful of coming back and securing a starting position, getting that experience and seeing where it takes me. It has certainly been a tough gig trying to get on the field ahead of the likes of Kate Gill, Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord, but it has been amazing to be surrounded by so many great players, and it means I can only get better.
“I have set one of my goals as playing in somewhere like Sweden or the US in one of their tiers. I also really want to now play in the W-League as a regular starter and give that a red-hot crack. And then see how far I can go with it. I can then switch my full time focus on the army one day. I’m just really grateful for how things have turned out.”
For the self-confessed go-getter Marzano, the greater the challenge the more resolute she becomes. Persistence and determination, it seems, do pay off.