Emma Checker from Adelaide United Emma Checker.
Image: Adam Butler

Emma Checker's potential heights are as lofty as her 175cm physical stature. If her weekend opponents don’t know her yet, they soon will.

It’s certainly sweet being 16 for emerging soccer star Emma Checker. While many mid-teens are looking forward to the day their braces come off, Checker spends her waking hours starring on Australian women’s soccer’s biggest stage, the W-League. Her potential heights are as lofty as her 175cm physical stature. If her weekend opponents don’t know her yet, they soon will.

What’s her story?

Checker is already an important part of Adelaide United’s defence against its W-League rivals, but this right/centre back looked anything but a soccer player during her lunchtimes at Immanuel Primary School in Novar Gardens, an inner south-western suburb of Adelaide. “I just played around with the boys in primary school,” Checker tells Inside Sport. “At first, I just played in the middle of the field ... just ran around. I didn’t know what I was doing. But one day my primary school PE teacher suggested I should try out at the state team trials – which I did with a couple of other girls from my school.”

Checker blitzed ‘em at state and national level before eventually being included in an elite “Allstars” team at the Under-15 nationals. She was awarded with an AIS scholarship and now finds herself being regularly invited to Matildas training camps.

“When I’m playing in teams in my own age group, I feel I can be a leader. I feel I can take responsibility,” Checker says.

“To begin with, playing in the W-League last year was all a bit of a surprise. I never thought I’d be playing at such a high level at 15 ... marking up against Matildas players. It was pretty scary. Everyone else knew each other out there. All the girls are really nice, though ... off the field!”

Who's She Like?

Queen of the Australian women’s soccer scene for so long, Cheryl Salisbury – scorer of 38 goals on the international scene from 151 appearances for our national side, and retired since 2009. Checker obviously has all of the fundamentals of a quality good right/centre back down pat, but almost as important is the fact it’s Salisbury’s mere presence which Checker is starting to become famous for.

“She’s been blessed with very good size for a centre back,” says former Matildas striker Sarah Walsh. “She already has a level of confidence about her play, a level of maturity. Whether that’s passing the ball or controlling the backline, she seems to be advantaged beyond her years in that respect. Cheryl finished her career at centre back. Like Salisbury, you would describe Checker as having a ‘presence’. She’s very difficult to beat.”

You’ll get no argument from Matildas mentor, and soon-to-be US women’s head coach, Tom Sermanni. “Emma is probably in a Cheryl Salisbury-type mode,” Sermanni says. “Cheryl was a commanding centre back. Her presence on the field was significant. “Emma is blessed with the attributes that make a high-quality centre back in the modern game. She’s athletically good, tall, and comfortable in possession. She really came to the fore in the W-League last year.”

What Do They Say?

“She’s as quick as she is confident on her feet. The step to international football from the W-League is quite a big one, but if she does develop her game, who knows? It might only be a matter of time ... ”

‒ Former Matildas striker Sarah Walsh

 “I’d be surprised if Emma doesn’t have a long and illustrious Matildas career. We’ve put a lot of young players in the squad ahead of their games. The best thing about the team is we have a large number of players like Emma coming through.”

‒ Matildas head coach Tom Sermanni