An A-Leagues trial every kid needs to read about created a legend who ‘shouldn’t even be here’

WATCH: Perth Glory captain Tash Rigby fronts the media ahead of her milestone match

Ahead of her 100th Liberty A-League game, Perth Glory captain Tash Rigby reflects on her extraordinary journey so far, and everything she’s learned leading the club out of its Sam Kerr era and into a very bright future.

In 2016, Tash Rigby was a 23-year-old state league footballer when she was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. 

Selected in a Western Australia state squad to take on Perth Glory in a pre-season friendly, Rigby knew she needed to make the most of every single minute provided to her.

“But in that game, I didn’t even start,” Rigby recalls. “I started on the bench and someone got injured. 

“The coach at the time turned around and said: ‘Who wants to go on at (number) six?’ And I had never played six. But because I like to seize opportunities, I was like: ‘Put me in’ and I put my hand up.”

Rigby is a flying full-back; stepping into midfield, she admits, was completely out of her comfort zone.

“I went on thinking: ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’… and then I set up a goal,” she says. “In the second half I was put back to full-back and played very well.

“That’s when Bobby Despotovski asked me to come down for a trial.”

It’s the moment that launched Rigby into the Liberty A-League under then-Glory women’s coach Despotovski, who Rigby had won over with that opportunistic performance in the 2016 pre-season.

Seven years later, the now-30-year-old is preparing to play her 100th Liberty A-League game for the club on Saturday night – and her 62nd as Perth Glory captain.

“I’m so grateful I stepped out of my comfort zone and said yes in that moment, because I may never have been discovered,” she said.

“It’s crazy to think maybe that moment was the one that led to me being here. It’s amazing.”


Rigby speaks to outside Perth Glory headquarters in Fremantle. She takes her seat in a dugout overlooking the sporting grounds, after bursting through the doors of the club gym with a beaming smile, hopping a fence as she goes.

Her energy is sky-high, as it always is.

As it always has been through her days in the Glory spotlight – first as an exciting up-and-comer seizing her chance, then as a leader of a team that slipped into Sam Kerr-less obscurity before slowly transitioning back into a Liberty A-League frontrunner.

On Saturday night, Rigby will have spent 62% of her professional career as captain of Glory. Her 100th game will be her 62nd wearing the armband since she was thrust into the role by Despotovski after Kerr’s 2019 departure to Chelsea, and then backed in by the club’s next head coach Alex Epakis.

A fifth-consecutive season as Glory captain is the longest active streak of any sole captain in the Liberty A-League, and equal with the Isuzu UTE A-League Men’s longest-serving captain Tom Aldred at Brisbane Roar. 

A sense of imposter syndrome came with the early days of her captaincy at Perth – but that feeling is long gone.

Rigby is now a leader who relishes the responsibility, fuelled by her understanding that, in another life, her opportunity to crack it at Perth might have never come.

Rigby is from Margaret River, nearly three hours south of Perth where opportunities for exposure are fleeting. From the age of 15 to 17 her parents drove her up to Perth and back three days a week to give her the opportunity to play for the state team. 

“I was speaking to Alex (Epakis) yesterday, and he said: ‘You shouldn’t even be here. Technically, you shouldn’t have even got your chance’. That’s what makes it so special.”

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Before her Glory discovery, Rigby was a mainstay at Queens Park Soccer Club in Perth, where she credits her coach Ben Anderton for thrusting the opportunity to play against the Liberty A-League club upon her.

“Coming from the country at the time when I was coming through, the development pathways were there, but opportunities were slim,” she says. 

“I think it’s a credit to Ben, my coach at Queens Park, putting my name forward to play against Perth Glory in that showcase match, because I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that game. 

“(Anderton) was the first coach to really show belief in me. He ignited that spark. Bobby (Despotovski), he gave me my shot. And I was so lucky to be under his reign. And then Alex (Epakis), he’s been phenomenal in the way he’s developed me as a player and allowed me to be myself, and grow into the leader I have become as well.

“Over the last few years I’ve done a lot of reflection and growth, and I feel like I’ve stepped up to become the leader I really want to be. I still have so much to learn, but the way I’m leading, especially this season, it’s a credit to the girls, the environment and Alex.

“It has taken a long time to actually be confident within myself, and have that belief within myself as a leader as well. And it has come down to leaning on my support systems, and recognising my own strengths and in others.

“I think in no way should one single person lead the team. It’s about identifying strengths in others and every single person in our team is able to give something in some way. Empowering them to lead, so it’s more a collective spirit, with an emphasis on creating a safe space for people to feel like they can be themselves.”

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When Saturday night’s clash with Melbourne Victory kicks off at Macedonia Park, Rigby will join Shannon May and Marianna Tabain as the only three players to have notched 100 Liberty A-League appearances for Perth. 

A conversation with May on Thursday morning began with a congratulatory message: “welcome to the club, baby!” Then came a piece of context to hammer home the importance of the milestone.

“Shannon said it’s equivalent to making 300 games in the men’s game – I think she was exaggerating a bit – but she’s such an amazing friend, and was a really big support and mentor for me throughout my early years as well. It’s awesome to be able to share that milestone with her.”

But May’s message does hold merit.

When Rigby first debuted for Perth, each Liberty A-League club played a mere 12 regular-season games. It stayed that way until 2021-22, when that figure increased to 14. 

Rapid expansion bumped that figure up to 18 last season, and in 2022-23, the reintroduction of Central Coast Mariners to the league means for the very first time in the competition’s history, a full home-and-away, 22-game season for every single club in the league.


Shannon May (left) and Tash Rigby in 2019.

It was a long road from game one to 100 – but Rigby appreciates patient step of the journey.

“My journey is so interesting,” she says. “I came in at a time when the PFA (Professional Footballers Australia) hadn’t even implemented the Collective Bargaining Agreement, I was part of the league before and after that was implemented.

“But speaking about paving the way, the women who came before me and played for Glory, those women are the ones we have to pay homage to. They are the ones who pretty much played for free and laid the building blocks for the girls coming in now. 

“It’s still not where it needs to be, but this generation is able to reap the rewards of the extended season. Hopefully, it leads to an increase in pay and other things. But I feel really special to have been a part of this period where I’ve seen the game grow so much.”

In the current season, Rigby is leading a rampaging Glory outfit through a white-hot start, with four wins from four sending Epakis’ side to the top of the table. Saturday night presents a tough task against a Victory outfit gathering momentum after consecutive wins.

For 90 minutes, a revved-up Rigby will lead her side into battle as captain for the 62nd time, wearing the club’s crest for the 100th time.

Then will come a moment to reflect on the journey so far.

“It’s already been an emotional week,” she says.

“The player I was, and the person I was when I began, was a very different player and person to the one that’s sitting here today. 

“I am just so grateful and honoured to have been on this journey, and to have coaches that actually believed in me. And players around me to guide, mentor and support me.

“I’m so thankful for Glory for every opportunity, and for keeping me around! It’s such an honour. 

“Especially over the last few years, we’ve started to build a little bit of a fortress at Macedonia Park, and it really feels like our home. That’s a credit to the club and how they invested in our league and the team as well. I’m really, really thankful for that. 

“The feeling within the club and team right now is really, really great. I’m so excited for the future.”

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Perth Glory v Melbourne Victory
Saturday, November 18 2023
Macedonia Park
Kick-off: 10:00pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Play