Tilda Mason finds purpose with All Abilities Academy

Tilda Mason has suffered her fair share of discrimination but now she has found her football family at the Canberra United All Abilities Academy. Tilda, who has cerebral palsy, began her footballing journey in Western Australia but after limited opportunities, has now found herself in the nation's capital.

"I got introduced to the sport a year and a half ago and I started training with the WA side," Tilda shared. "I struggled to find a team in the southwest of WA so every Saturday I was driving two hours to train, having an hour session, and then driving back.

"I was determined to prove that I should be part of the team but WA didn't have space for me.

"During that time, I was speaking to some of the players in Canberra and I was in contact with CF coach Kelly Stirton. So I was invited to come to the 2019 National CP Football Championships and play with the Capital Football team because WA didn't have a spot for me.

"Kelly was really supportive of having girls in the team so we became the first team that had a female head coach and one of the first teams that had female footballers at the National CP Football Championships."

Earlier this year, Tilda received a job offer from the National Disability Insurance Agency, paving the way for her to move to Canberra and link up with her former teammates. It was an intimidating move but Tilda does not regret it for one second.

"It was a massive change. I moved here a week before COVID really hit, so it was a big struggle for the first few months," Tilda shared. "There was a time that I was ready to go back and be with my family but I decided to stick it out.

"But right now, I wouldn't take it back. I am so glad that I came over. It is the best decision that I have ever made."

Tilda is one of the 19 footballers that have joined the Canberra United All Abilities Academy, training twice a week with her new teammates under the guidance of coaches Kelly Stirton and Phil Booth.

"In my life, I have dealt with discrimination and unfairness and being left out of things but I didn't let it stop me," Tilda said. "I feel like I have a purpose in life now. I have a great job, I have good friends, I am part of a community that accepts me and loves football."

One of the reasons why Tilda was excited to join the Academy was to train under Kelly's tutelage.

"I am so excited to learn from Kelly," she said. "Having that female image is something that I find empowering. I think having Kelly as the coach will really define CP football in the coming years, so being beside her is pretty awesome."

Her advice to anyone considering joining the Academy is simple.

"Give me a call, I'll tell you how awesome it is," she said laughing. "But honestly, don't let anything stop you. Be proud of who you are and just give it your all."