ABC Pod: Dobson’s emotional Westfield W-League farewell opens new door to the future

“Sport only lasts for so long. Your life and relationships, they’re the things that are long-lasting.”

Rhali Dobson says it best herself, when perfectly encapsulating the simplicity in her life-changing decision to hang up the boots after scoring for Melbourne City against Perth Glory in her final Westfield W-League appearance.

Speaking to Daniel Garb and Robbie Cornthwaite on the ABC Grandstand Football Podcast, Dobson’s emotion-evoking discussion on football, life and the longevity of cherished relationships put the 28-year-old’s worldly perspective and affection for her fiancé Matt Stonham on full display.

As the dust settles on her incredible farewell game and the proceeding stories which made headlines around the globe, Dobson is preparing for a new chapter of her life, and says it was an easy decision to end her Westfield W-League career to join her partner in his battle to overcome brain cancer.

REPORT: Retiring Dobson bows out with emotional goal as City defeat Glory
READ: Dobson ‘all smiles’ waving farewell as partner makes pitchside proposal

Rhali Dobson

“It’s a bigger picture. It’s a new adventure.” 

Dobson’s Westfield W-League farewell ended with a match-winning goal, a City win, and an emotional proposal from her partner, Matt Stonham. 

It was a moment which capped off what was already a fairytale ending for Dobson – who had twice seen her attempts to propose to Stonham in the past knocked back.

Dobson admits she’s cried every day since her final appearance in City colours on Thursday, March 25, due to the diverse emotions tied up in calling time on her playing career, and becoming engaged to her partner of almost eight years ahead of an important phase in both of their lives.

“I’m so fortunate to have found Matt, almost eight years ago now,” Dobson told Garb and Cornthwaite.

“We just have such a good understanding of each other. He’s been so supportive of my career.

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But overall sport only lasts for so long. Your life and relationships, they’re the things that are long-lasting. 

You never know what’s happening in the future. 

“For me, it was an easy decision to make in terms of deciding to give up the sport at a national level so I can be with him.

“Realistically, quality and quantity of life is more important than playing the sport every week.

“He’s a phenomenal person. He’s deeply enriched in the football community as well, he played the sport. It’s not like I won’t always have a part in the game.

“He’s still coaching, I’ll still play locally in Newcastle, so we’ll still be in and around it essentially.”

Dobson added: “It’s been a hard one to swallow. But as I said, it’s a bigger picture. It’s a new adventure. 

“I think it will really hit home when the next season starts, but I am working with the PFA to still be involved in the game, and still get it to progress and move forward.

“As we know, a lot of what we push for in the W-League, my generation aren’t going to experience those benefits. We are trying o make it better and beneficial for the generations coming through.

“The aim is to still be involved, still get a lot of movement for the women’s game.

I have days when I reflect on what I’ve done. Then there’s days when I am upset.

But everything has to end eventually. Mine was a bit earlier, but that’s okay.”

Rhali Dobson, Matt Stonham

Dobson spoke to Garb and Cornthwaite on Monday, March 29 – just days after her farewell City game. But the occupational therapist was already back on the job, resuming her full-time role with the Altius Group on the very same day.

Dobson says her medical experience has helped both herself and Stonham throughout his battle with brain cancer. Together in Newcastle, Dobson and Stonham can now focus on his progression through treatment, and making wedding plans to match the perfect engagement set on the stage of Dobson’s greatest Westfield W-League night.

“My entire career when i’ve been in the W-League, I’ve either studied full-time or worked full-time as an occupational therapist, or worked part-time as an occupational therapist,” Dobson said.

“I have fantastic employers with the Altius Group. Every time I go to Melbourne I work part-time, and they keep my full-time job for me.

“I’m back at work full[time today – no rest for the wicked, and they’re so supportive even with everything going (on) with Matt. 

“They’ve said ‘set up at home so you can work full-time, let us know if you need leave’. They’ve been amazing in that regard.

Dobson continued: “Nothing is unusual to me. It’s been beneficial I’ve got that health background and understanding when we’ve had medical appointments. 

“It takes away the stress from Matt trying to understand everything, because that’s where I can handle that side for him.”

Rhali Dobson