Cortellino’s a rising star

Alana Cortellino (Jacob Pattison)347268_03

Peter Howe

It’s every sportsperson’s dream to be crowned a champion and hold the coveted cup aloft, particularly when your team is the underdog and you are in your first international tournament.

Our July Don Deeble award nominee 16-year-old Alana Cortellino lived exactly that dream when the Junior Matildas won the under-18 Asean Football Federation Championship last year.

“We played in group stages beating the Philippines 4-0, Malaysia 8-0, Myanmar 2-1,” she said. “[We beat] Thailand 1-0 in the semi-final in the last few minutes of extra time and then Vietnam in the final 2-0.

“It’s still surreal and I’m not sure how I even got there to play to be honest. It was an unbelievable feeling.”

Cortellino loved all sports growing up. She danced, loved gymnastics, basketball and swimming, then athletics became her go to thing.

Her mother, Lori was the taxi driver between stadiums, with sports every weeknight and on weekends, with both parents were also into sport and leisurely activities.

“I suppose I just loved to compete and was a very determined person,” reflected Cortellino.

She was nine years old when her friend’s played soccer at lunchtime at school and she was soon playing under-10s at Keilor Park.

Cortellino knew that sport was a driving force somewhere deep inside her, so she applied for a scholarship to Maribyrnong Sports Academy as her secondary school of choice, which she was successful in gaining.

An under-12 practice match at Calder United had Cortellino’s ability shine and she was scouted and offered a train on position, which meant she trained once a month with the higher ranked club with older players.

She spent two years playing with Calder, before she was again scouted, this time by Football Victoria’s Talent Identification Development Centre.

“I spent two years in that program before moving into Football Victoria National Training Centre program and successfully trialled with Melbourne Victory as part of their elite junior girls program,” she said.

At the national youth under-16 championships last year in Coffs Harbour she was identified by Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City which both offered her training contracts after the tournament.

But it was June of that year when her big break came, she was invited to the Football Australia Junior Matildas camp in New South Wales.

Cortellino, as a 15-year-old, was then selected to represent Australia at an under-18 international tournament.

“At this time, I didn’t have time to think, mum was out of her mind, she was so proud, as dad was too,” she said.

Cortellino, who plays right wing, said you have speed and stamina to play in that position.

While natural ability takes you so far, hard work, dedication and a single focus takes you the rest of the way.

Cortellino trains mornings a week with the Sports Academy in the gym, which is only the start.

“I have three programs now that I am part of and have training requirements with each,” she said. “Melbourne Victory, Future Matildas and Football Victoria Emerging,” she said.

Even during her July school holidays, Cortellino is fully focused on her football program.

Locally she is playing with the FV Emerging team in the National Premier League Women’s competition, having captained Calder United’s successful under-19 team last year.

So, what does the future hold?

“I’d love to strive towards a Matildas berth,” she said. “A scholarship with an A-League club and potentially a professional overseas contract.

“I will let it all play out and allow my football to shine.”

The Don Deeble Sports Star Award is sponsored by the Yarraville Club Cricket Club, Strathmore Community Bank, the Deer Park Club, Ascot Vale Sports and Trophies and the Star Weekly Newspapers.

If you would like to nominate a monthly winner or attend a dinner at the Medway Golf Club, or at 0408 556 631.