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Q&A with Katie Rood

Football Fern Katie Rood. Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek

Katie Rood has enjoyed a busy few years in football recently as the game has taken her around the globe, while she made her long-awaited first appearance for the Football Ferns in 2017.

She was part of the New Zealand squad that played in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan in 2012 and enjoyed continental success as a member of the Ferns when they claimed the OFC Women’s Nations Cup in 2018.

Rood plays for Lewes FC in England’s FA Women’s Championship and the 27-year-old forward caught up with OFC Media for a chat.

With the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 set to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, what would it mean for you to be part of the Ferns set up when the tournament kicks off?

Having been so close to making a World Cup team and missing out a number of times in the past, the prospect of a World Cup debut on home soil would be the absolute pinnacle. All the work I’ve put in to get to that point and be part of a team that will no doubt inspire the nation and the next generation with our performances, I mean, what more could you hope for?!

You had to wait a relatively long time for your first New Zealand cap in 2017, how did it feel to play for your country for the first time and how motivated are you to keep your place in the squad?

In all honesty, it was a relief. I’d worked so hard to get to that point and had so many moments when I doubted if I would ever get a shot, so to finally get there was a huge first step. To be involved more regularly with the squad lately has been a great experience. I know that I have more to give to this environment and I hope I can prove that every time I take to the field for my club or country.

Apart from playing for New Zealand you also won the Italian league title with Juventus in 2018,  can you tell us about that major milestone in your playing career?

From playing for Glenfield Rovers in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), to signing for Italian football giants Juventus was surreal, to say the least. We were their first ever women’s team and I’m really proud to have played a part in the club’s history. It was a challenging season for me personally but I think navigating my way through that experience has helped me grow in my sense of self, both on and off the pitch.

You are currently playing for Lewes in England, what’s the club like?

Lewes FC is unlike any other club in the world. Literally. It’s 100 per cent community/fan owned and it is the only club in the world to pay/treat the men and women equally. The teams have the same budgets, the same resources and play on the same pitch. This is a rarity around the globe, as football is such a male-dominated space. Quite often, even the top women’s teams aren’t able to play or train at their own club’s facilities. What Lewes are doing is showing that there’s another way. They prove that a simple decision at board level to redistribute funds is not only possible but that it will also lead to positive outcomes throughout the club and the surrounding community.

How would you compare the level of competition to other leagues you played in previously?

I think the Championship is missing a little bit of technical quality that you see from the professionals in Italy and England but it’s understandable when you realise that most of these players are expected to train full-time on a part-time salary, whilst holding down steady work or studies. There’s many barriers still, even at the top level of the game, for women to get the most out of our athletic careers. That being said, we had lots of instances last season where Championship teams competed with and even beat FA Women’s Super League teams, so the gap isn’t as big as many may think. We’re also starting to see more investment by some clubs, which is great and it shows how even minimal investment can go a long way in increasing the quality of the women’s game.

With the Women’s World Cup three years away, what sort of personal targets have you set for yourself?

I want to be performing week-in and week-out at club level. I’ve lacked consistency in my game since my time at Juventus and I just want to get back to playing with the freedom and confidence I had when I was in Aotearoa. I want to be banging in goals and being really impactful in games, like I know I can be. I’m working hard on improving certain aspects of my play and trying to bring out the best of my game as often as possible. I have some more tangible targets I want to hit but I know that they will only come as a result of me getting back to enjoying my game.

Given the current state of women’s football in New Zealand and the impetus the game will receive leading up to the World Cup, how would you rate the Football Ferns’ chances in 2023?

It’s great to see the buzz and excitement the prospect of this tournament has already created across the country. I think there’s room for improvement in the domestic game and I know many people have been working so hard in that space for such a long time. I really hope this event can generate the changes needed for the game to finally flourish. The Football Ferns have the chance of a lifetime, with all eyes on us, the stage is set to show the world what we are about as a nation and the strength, resilience, mana and flair that it takes to reach the top level of the women’s game. I think the Ferns will go further than ever before, making history, and it will be fantastic to have the nation behind us for that!

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