Real Nice: Jada Whyman living out both dreams

Sydney FC goalkeeper has had a brilliant season on and off the field, taking in football and music, writes David Davutovic

With diversity and inclusion key parts of the A-Leagues’ brand strategy, the search was on for appropriate emerging football talent when embarking on an ambitious music video project.

As Australia’s most diverse national sporting competitions, with over 100 nationalities represented since both competitions started, the Isuzu UTE and Liberty A-Leagues offered no shortage of apt options.

Jada Whyman, a proud Wiradjuri and Yorda Yorda woman, and Italian-Australian Marco Tilio ultimately featured in the 2021/22 A-Leagues anthem Real Nice (H.C.T.F.), involving an equally diverse and emerging batch of artists: Tkay Maidza, Nerve and Young Franco, along with director Gabe Gasparinatos.

From our First Nations People to the most recent waves of migration – African-Australian Kusini Yengi also featured in the video – the world game has provided Australia’s myriad communities with a sense of belonging.

Jada Whyman on the set of the Real Nice (H.C.T.F.) music video shoot, on the eve of the Liberty A-League season.

Whyman, 22, has continued football’s long and proud connection with Indigenous talent, from John Moriarty, Charles Perkins, Matildas trailblazer Karen Menzies to greats Kyah Simon and Lydia Williams.

Inspired to pursue football after watching a TV interview with Williams, who consequently became her idol, Whyman’s extraordinary pursuit of a football dream included huge sacrifices, such as living in a tent.

Her inspirational story was celebrated in the Real Nice music video and, akin to her world-class saves in Sydney FC goals, Whyman threw herself at the project with gusto, and fulfilled a childhood dream.

“When I first spoke to Jada and was trying to get a vibe of what she’s into, to get to know her a bit. Something that stood out was both that she was wearing a Michael Jackson t-shirt,” ARIA-nominated director Gabriel Gasparinatos said.

“But she also made a big point that she loves dancing, and if she wasn’t a footballer that she thinks she would have wanted to be a hip hop dancer.

“I really like the integration of dance and music videos. I really like putting non-musicians or non-performers into a sort of performance setting. So when she said that she was so keen on dance and on Hip-Hop, it was almost a no brainer to get her doing some choreography. Get her alongside six backup dancers. 

“Get her in this kind of completely different world that’s so foreign into her own, but also like similar in a certain way. There’s something about the (goalkeeper), kind of dance to the way that goalie moves as a kind of beautiful choreography to the game.”

Heeding the advice of her pop Hewitt, who was part of the Stolen Generation and fought in the Vietnam War, Whyman was delighted to be part of the music video project, which also included her young sister as ‘young Jada’.

“It was great working on this project. It’s not easy to jump on a set and do something you’ve never done before. I’ve never done anything like this before,” Whyman said.

“It’s a bit weird having my little sister play me but I think she’s got such a great personality for this kind of stuff, acting and having fun. She’s so confident, I never had that as a kid and I love that she’s got that.

“I love that she’s got out of her comfort zone. She’s a little legend.”

Whyman in her Sydney FC kit during an epic shoot for the A-League music video.

Gasparinatos was anticipating resistance but surprised at Whyman’s contribution, which included two full days of shooting with the production crew.

“I thought that she wouldn’t go for it and would kind of be bit nervous and that she wouldn’t quite be up for it, but she really just took it on and she really ran at it. And she really was excited by the opportunity to do something a bit different,” he said.

“She talks a lot about getting out of her comfort zone when she’s playing, she talks a lot about trying to have that focus and push herself and challenge herself to do better and be better at the game. She maybe found as a cool opportunity to try something new and to push herself out of her comfort zone and do something awesome. 

“She was incredible. Working with her was really fun. The choreographer was incredible. They had a good time trying to work out what’s within Jada’s capabilities. And she was actually better. She seemed to know more. She seemed to pick it up faster than we thought. 

“We were sort of going with something quite simple. But she nailed that. So like, OK, let’s complicate it a bit. Let’s add some extra moves. Let’s push it a bit further. And it came out great.”

Whyman has mixed memories from last season’s grand final, winning the player of the match award although Sydney FC lost in extra-time to a Kyra Cooney-Cross goal.

Sydney FC goalkeeper Jada Whyman making one of her many top-class saves this season. PIC: Getty

Sydney FC can exact revenge in Sunday’s grand final rematch at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, when the Premiers host Victory, who’ve qualified for the big game from fourth.

It would cap off another top season for Whyman, who broke the A-League women’s record for minutes without conceding a goal – smashing the previous record of 735 minutes, keeping a clean sheet for 901 minutes.

She also has an eye on the Matildas, as the 2023 FIFA World Cup draws closer.