Cristal King was nominated for Female Football Week by the Belnorth committee to acknowledge her success and efforts for the club.
Cristal began playing football at the age of nine and stopped playing when she was 15, which is a regular occurrence for women with the sport tending to see a drop-off between the ages of 15-17.
She returned to the game at age 20 where she played several years in the Women’s National Premier League at the same time she was playing in other Men’s competitions.
Cristal stopped playing in the Women’s NPL in her late 20s and went on to join the State League competition where she explored coaching and managerial roles. In 2020, she decided she wanted to pursue coaching and found herself at Belnorth FC.
Cristal joined Belnorth in 2021, where she took on a playing and coaching role in Community League Men’s teams.
“In 2020, I decided that I wanted to take coaching a little bit more seriously and I set a goal to coach Men’s Premier League by 2025,” King revealed. “I decided to join a Men’s competition to try understand men’s culture more, particularly on how they like to learn and receive feedback in hopes that it would make me a better coach.”
Belnorth were extremely supportive of Cristal’s goals as she went on to play two seasons in Community League Men’s Division 4.
“In the first season I was fortunate enough to be voted captain of the team and this year I have the privilege of coaching them,” Cristal said. “I have been lucky to have support from my men’s team and the support of Belnorth in achieving my goals and having some fun along the way.”
Cristal won Belnorth’s Men’s Player of the Year in 2021 and this had immense significance to her coming from her teammates.
“Each year the club asks for nominees for Male Player of the Year and to my complete surprise I was lucky to receive the award in 2021. It was really special to me because this was something that my teammates voted for me for and the club’s committee was also a part of it,” Cristal said.
Cristal is tremendously passionate about women’s participation, and she spent a lot of time working with juniors between the ages of 14-17 to ensure they remained in football and avoided the high dropout rates.
“During my time in Women’s State League 1, I spent a lot of time assisting women returning to football safely after having children. This is another area where we seem to see women drop-off and not return to the sport,” Cristal said.
Cristal says that there are many inspiring women in women’s football, even with coaching for the Men’s, but believes there is more to do to achieve equality between Women’s and Men’s football and proposes some ways in which governing bodies can move in this direction.
“Kayannie Denigan is one of these women, she is the first female president for Belnorth she is also an Indigenous Luritja artist and a full-time worker,” Cristal said. “I don’t know how she finds the time but she’s an incredible woman that always supports other women and women’s football.
“I think everybody has a role in achieving equality including governing bodies like Capital Football. They are in an excellent position to provide support and guidance to clubs and FFA through the collection of data on what women, and what the game needs, to achieve equality.
They can also develop accountable and achievable action plans with FFA and the clubs to deliver this.”
Cristal holds quite a few issues in women’s football close to her heart including women’s uniforms, safe fields and appropriate changerooms and toilets.
“Women’s uniform is a big one for me, like men we just want to run on the field and play this beautiful game. Ill-fitting uniforms are very uncomfortable, and they take away from our game,” Cristal said.
“Uniform colours like white or light colours can be intimidating for some women and girls especially shorts. I would love to see all clubs provide women with access to women’s clothing as standard issue uniform.
“I would also like to see women have clean and safe fields, this includes fields that are well-lit for safety, changerooms and toilets that are open and fitted with things like sanitary bins and fields that are safe to use.
“Women often play on cluster fields that have very sparse grass due to overuse and as girls and women are suffering more and more from ACL injuries, fields are critical for the prevention of this injury.”
Cristal would like to see an independent voice at Capital Football that is elected to focus on the development of opportunities and implementation of equality in Canberra.
She believes that inclusiveness is the key to a bright future in women’s football. Football itself is already an inclusive sport. It is not a case of changing the core of football, it’s that we need to support all players and ensure they continue playing by making it an open, accessible, and enjoyable game.