Williams takes walk on the wild side

She grew up chasing Sherrins on the dusty red plains in and around Kalgoorlie but Lydia Williams has found her home instead in the round-ball game.

She grew up chasing Sherrins on the dusty red plains in and around Kalgoorlie but Lydia Williams has found her home instead in the round-ball game.

The Matildas goalkeeper was announced last week as one of the first signings for the Canberra United team in the new W-League.

The international-class goalkeeper has come a long way considering she hadn't contemplated playing between the posts until she moved to the national capital almost 10 years ago.

Williams was born in Western Australia and lived in the mining town of Kalgoorlie until she was 10.She spent plenty of her early years playing Australian football in the red dust before she found soccer at school.

She also dabbled with basketball, but soccer quickly became her favourite and she took to running around in the midfield.

But then when Williams' mum Diana was offered a job in Canberra in 1999, the family moved and the young star had to make a decision play in the top team for Tuggeranong as a keeper or play fourth division as a midfielder?

''I said 'mum, the top division of course','' Williams said. From there, Williams went through Capital Football academies all the way to the ACT Academy of Sport program.

She missed out on making a Young Matildas team in her first trial but six months after that following a demanding training program with Australian keeping coaches Williamsmade her Matildas debut aged 17.

Since then she has been a regular part of the Australian program. Last year she captained the Young Matildas and this year as a 20-year-old she has been a regular fixture alongside Australia's senior keeper, Melissa Barbieri.

Matildas coach Tom Sermanni told The Canberra Times this year that Williams was the 'second number one goalkeeper' and that she will be the next senior goalkeeper. She has also received considerable accolades off field as well. In 2006 when she was just 18 she was named female sportsperson of the year at the 2006 Deadly awards.

''I was speechless when they announced that,'' Williams said. ''It still surprises me now to be thought of as in the same category as [previous winner] Cathy Freeman.''Williams' mum Diana is an American who met her dad Ron, an indigenous Australian, when she went to Western Australia to work as a missionary. Ron died four years ago four months before Williams made her Matildas debut.

''It was hard then, but I think it's harder now just that I have been away when there have been anniversariesand I haven't been able to be with mum,'' Williams said.But her second family, the Matildas, make sure Ron is remembered.

This year the anniversary of his birthday was on the same day as the Matildas final day at the Peace Cup in South Korea. They had a few drinks to celebrate the end of a hectic tour, but they also had a few quiet drinks to remember Ron. And then, not so quietly, they sang him happy birthday.Williams said her upbringing in the West Australian goldfields has helped foster a fearless attitude.

''I was always out travelling around with my family and playing with other kids in the bush and I was never worried about falling over and getting scratched or anything like that,'' she said. ''I always had a bit of that fearless aspect.''

It's something that has carried over to her work outside soccer. She began contemplating a career as a zoo keeper while working as a tour-guide at the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra.

Williams is now halfway through an 18-month course that sees her travel once a week to Taronga Zoo in Sydney to perform a myriad of tasks such as feeding the lions and tigers.

Williams plans to continue the course while playing in the W-League. Williams played for the Canberra Eclipse in the last year of the Women's national soccer league, when players still had to pay to play at the top level.

This time, it's the first step in a new professional era in Australia, and Williams is set to be one of its stars. The league kicks off on the last weekend of October.