• Jayden J Bartlett

Cheyenne Mallia - the Bittersweet Journey

Cheyenne Mallia has been playing football for eleven years, has progressed from the local level to the NAB League Girls, and has developed into a promising young leader. However, her footballing journey has been bittersweet, as the prospect has had to battle injuries and even bullying at times throughout the past decade.

Yet despite all that has been thrown at her, she has always managed to find the strength to bounce back.

Cheyenne’s football journey begun at Altona playing AusKick, she then also spent the majority of her days playing junior football with the junior boys at Altona.

“At this point I was already playing with a girls’ team which was the Port Melbourne Colts, to start getting used to girls’ football.”

“On a Sunday I would play in the morning for Port Colts then my family would drive me straight to Altona to play in the afternoon.

“The coach would always applaud me for my efforts and always say in the huddle how I already had played only a couple hours before and was still running as hard as I could while the boys were being ‘lazy’ as he would put it.

“So, when it came around to the end of my second last season with the boys my coach of the boys' team approached my dad and said that I had to make a choice.

“They were starting a girls’ team up at Altona and the president said if I were to play for them I would be given the role as a captain and so many opportunities, but all I wanted to do was play with the boys for one last season, I had been playing with them my whole football journey and I knew that I only had one more season with them.

“So, I wanted to just be with my best friends for one last season.”

But unfortunately for the young footballer, she would not get the opportunity to play that one last season. This then set the tone for a few tough years of football for Cheyenne.

“He said that I had to choose between playing with the boys and girls so at this point my heart was practically broken so I said there was no way I was going back and that’s when I made the switch.”

“I was then asked by Point Cook FC to come and play with them in my last season of my boys’ football in the division 1 team. I decided to move there but did not last long. I was bullied by the players and sat on the bench.”

Luckily, she did not let this sour experience ruin her love of football; and this strength to continue playing paid dividends as she found a side that she felt at home with.

“I decided then to fully transition into the girls’ league in which I moved over to Flemington Juniors. As soon as I got there I knew that I was going to love it there. Such a family-oriented club that had such great girls and coaches that cared about each other.”

“In 2019 I was too old to play at the club, so I went over to our senior club which was Melbourne University but then at the end of 2019 Flemington and Melbourne Uni ended their partnership and we went back over to Flemington.”

Then in 2020, she had plans to join the merged sides of Flemington and Yarraville Seddon, but these plans had to be postponed due to the outbreak of covid. She would finally get the chance to start playing with them, or the 'Yolts' as they call themselves, during 2021.

'Game Face' - image kindly supplied by Cheyenne.

Cheyenne’s journey within local level football is certainly promising, although at times it was bitter. However, her performance at the local level saw her start playing representative football at a young age.

At just 12 years of age, so one year after she started playing, Cheyenne represented the EDFL-WRFL Interleague side. Then at age 13, the WRFL formed a standalone side which she was also lucky enough to represent.

As well as Interleague football, at age 13 she was picked to be a part of the then TAC Cup side of the Western Jets.

The following year the competition switched over to being known as the NAB League, and Cheyenne continued to represent the Jets.

“I have been lucky to have been a part of the side since then, apart from the 2020 season when I was having health issues. I have one last season of NAB League so I’m hoping to be able to be a part of it but just have to see where it takes me.”

Also included in this timeframe was the time she spent in the North Melbourne Next Generation Academy during 2016 and 2017. Unfortunately, an injury soured what was otherwise a great opportunity.

“I broke my arm in 2016 so I missed a good chunk of it but still went to all of the trainings to watch. Was good to meet new people and go back to the basics.”

Throughout the past eleven years, Cheyenne has also had some other achievements, that is despite “football only becoming my main focus in 2017”.

“I wasn’t focused on winning awards or being the best footballer there is. But I have been lucky enough to have won a Most Courageous award whilst I was playing with the boys.”

Cheyenne also finished third for her club’s Best and Fairest and was fortunate to Captain Flemington and be midfield Captain. This leadership quality is seen in what achievement she says she cherishes the most.

“I think a big achievement of mine though would have to be something that most wouldn’t think is an achievement when it comes to football. That achievement would be helping girls come out of their shell and helping them find their love for the game.”

'The Mighty Jets' - image kindly supplied by Cheyenne.

Achievements aside, Cheyenne has had many experiences throughout the past decade, with some being better than others. For the sake of this article, she has managed to narrow it down to three of her favourite football moments—which help offer an insight into what type of moments Cheyenne cherishes the most.

“One of them being in 2019, when I got back out onto the field for my first Western Jets game in months after being in and out of hospital getting tests done due to unexplained seizures.”

“My dad actually took a photo when I first got out on the field for warmups and the smile on my face was truly something else.

“The second favourite football memory that I have would be in 2016 when I was playing interleague. I kicked my first goal which happened to be a very crucial goal.”

Her third favourite moment came during 2017 when she was playing for Flemington. This is “one that sticks with me forever”, and it is perhaps the best example of the type of character Cheyenne is.

“We had a very quiet girl on our team who had the best kick I have ever seen. She was very gentle and a bit shy.”

“It was one of our last games of the season before finals and it happened to be the one game our coach was away. I marked the ball in our 50 and saw her standing by herself, I don’t think she was expecting me to kick it to her, but I found it as the perfect opportunity to get her first goal.

“I quickly booted it to her before anyone manned up on her and she marked it. I think she was in shock that she marked it.

“I’ll never forget this part though. We all told her to go back and take her time even though we knew she wouldn’t miss it with the amazing kick she has.

“She went back took her time and then slotted it straight through the goals. I ran as fast as I could up to her and picked her up the whole team got around her we were all screaming and hugging her.

“She then went on to kick another. The next week at training when our coach was back he couldn’t believe he missed the game.

“It is such a wholesome football moment of mine that I love to think back on quite often.”

'The Winning Feeling' - image kindly supplied by Cheyenne.

As mentioned earlier, Cheyenne has had to deal with some sour moments during her promising football journey and it “definitely has been a rough journey not going to lie”.

“I have not only gone through bullying over the phone but also on the field.”

If you are in the same boat as me, don’t do what I did, don’t go off the field crying, don’t say you are going to quit. Talk to a teammate, tell them what is happening during the quarter.

“At quarter time approach your coach and explain what is happening if you feel like you need a break off the field ask to be on the bench or if you can change to another position.

“If I were to give any girls any advice it would be this; let their words fuel you. If you show them that it has negatively affected you then they will know they’ve won, they know that they’ve succeeded.

“This is easier said than done though it doesn’t come overnight. What you can do right away though is block the bully on all social media platforms and inform someone you trust about what is going on.

“Never let anyone bring you down and never bully anyone. Let them fuel you to be the best football player you can be.”

For Cheyenne, her ability to stay strong and stick with football despite moments like this has shaped her into a strong yet caring leader. She certainly has a team-first mentality, and is willing to protect, support and help her teammates.

These qualities explain why she has become such a great leader on and off the field, and the tendency to look out for her teammates is also why she enjoys holding leadership roles.

“I absolutely love having a leadership role. I’ve always loved helping out people, so it’s just come naturally for me. I also have quite a loud voice which helps me out a bit as well.”

But not only has her own high level of dedication and passion for football helped her stick with the sport, but she has also been lucky enough to have some really great support behind her as well.

“I would love to thank Ron Sikora, he has had the biggest impact on my football journey. I used to be this shy girl who would stand outside of the huddle and would be too scared to talk to anyone. Ron broke me out of my shell and now I’m the loudest person on the field and always talking.”

“My coach Bec from Port Melbourne Colts helped me transition into playing with girls. All of my coaches at Flemington have helped get me to where I am right now.

“All of my current teammates from Flemington/Yarraville and Elsternwick who have supported me massively during this year which is one of the hardest in my football journey.”

Lastly and my biggest thanks to my parents. If it weren’t for my parents I would not be where I am today. Driving me to training, sometimes 4 times a week without complaining.

Standing outside cheering me on no matter the weather, cold, boiling, pouring down rain. Driving me all around Victoria week in week out, Yarrawonga, Kilsyth, Hastings.

They are my biggest supporters. I’ve gone through my football journey enduring quite a lot of bullying and they have always been there for me guiding me through the way.

“Multiple ambulance trips each season, staying in the hospital till 4 am. No amount of words or presents will be able to express my gratitude towards you.”

So, what is the next chapter for this promising and hard-working Jet?

To be the best footballer I can be so in the future when I’m older, I don’t have any regrets for not trying. The ultimate goal would be to make AFLW but with injuries and the bullying I gave up for a while and lost motivation which has resulted in a loss of fitness.”

“I am hoping though over the next 12 months to build my fitness back up though so I can enter next year or the year after draft.”

Coming from an athletics background, she certainly has the speed and fitness to make it as a midfielder. Mentally, she has already proven to us that she can stay strong and seemingly bounce back.

Even now, she has been able to work on and regain her motivation to reach the next level, which is something that is much easier said than done.

“I think I have we able to regain my motivation via surrounding myself with people who want the same outcome as me in their sport.”

“I am also lucky enough to participate in a High-Performance Program 4 days a week, so I was also constantly hearing others about their football.”

Considering all of this, the hard work that she has put in to carve a promising football journey despite having to deal with several sour moments—makes us believe that she can put in the hard work to be able to make that next step.

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Article #185

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None of these photographs is owned by MWM; all images have been supplied by the player and were personally took.

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