It is going to be a big few months for Kiara Fontanilla as she looks to not only help the Mariners Women’s Academy team win the FNSW League One competition, but also make her mark on the international stage at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
After first debuting for the Philippines Women’s National Team against Australia at the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, the goalkeeper, who has been a staple of the Mariners women’s academy first grade side this season, is preparing to take on some of the very best female footballers in the world.
Fontanilla has called the Central Coast home in 2023, with herself and fellow Philippines international Kaya Hawkinson moving to Australia after being placed with the Mariners by our former head coach Alen Stajcic.
She has been a vital member of our women’s first grade side who currently sit on top of the FNSW Women’s League One ladder after 16 rounds, proving to be one of the very best goalkeepers in the competition.
“We have been here for a little bit over six months, we love it here. We got placed in the Mariners by Alen (Stajcic); being here is an opportunity for us to grow as players and prepare for the World Cup,” she said.
“Playing in the US for practically my entire life, I stepped away from University because I just wanted to focus on my career. I knew that the clubs here were a super high level, and I was lucky enough to get placed with the Mariners and in this league.
“It is a lot tougher than I was expecting, being on the top of the table we definitely have a big target on our backs.”
Named in the provisional World Cup squad for the Philippines Women’s National Team, the side have already mostly assembled ahead of the tournament. Fontanilla still makes the trip back to the Central Coast for Mariners matches, before heading to Sydney for training camp.
“We are stationed in Parramatta right now, we practice at the Wanderers practice fields. Being a part of the preliminary squad, it was definitely hard work to get there,” she said.
“Even though I have been on other campaigns with the National team I never go in thinking that I have already made. I can’t think that I am already on the roster because anything can happen and it is up to Naz (Nahuel Arrarte) and Alen (Stajcic) to make the decision on who is in the final squad.”
With just a few weeks until the final squad is selected, the goalkeeper is hard at work trying to secure her place for the upcoming World Cup. The increased workload has been a challenge, however it is one that Fontanilla is happy to face.
“It definitely has been a hectic time training pretty much twenty four seven and then coming here for games. It also keeps us game ready and really fit,” she said.
“I’m really excited to hopefully get rostered and represent my country and my family.”
Representing her nation in their first ever World Cup appearance would be a dream come true for Fontanilla, who played an important role in helping the side make the semi finals of the AFC 2022 Women’s Asian Cup.
Despite not being ranked as highly as many other teams at the tournament, she is confident that the Philippines are up for the fight.
“It would definitely fill me with a lot of pride, not just for myself but for the girls, for the team, for the staff and for the country. It is our first tournament; we definitely want to make a showing. We are coming in as underdogs, I hope that teams will not take it easy on us because we are a force to be reckoned with,” she said.
“I think we will have a great showing, we are well prepared, doing the right things in the lead up to this World Cup, so we just have to be ready for our first game on the 21st.”