After time away from football, goalkeeper Beth Mason-Jones has signed with Canberra United. (Photo: Melbourne Victory)

Working as a junior goalkeeping coach while playing, new Canberra United signing Beth Mason-Jones wants to see more time spent giving pathways to and developing young female goalkeepers.

Goalkeeper Beth Mason-Jones is just a seven-hour drive away from re-joining the A-League Women competition.

The 23-year-old recently stepped away from football for 15 months after three years with Melbourne Victory, but is back better than ever to seize her opportunity with two (gloved) hands.

Now, the aspiring goalkeeping coach joins Keeley Richards as the club’s second keeper signed for the 2021/22 season.

She’s come back refreshed, mentally, physically, and emotionally. The prospect of getting into a completely new environment looms as a fresh start.

Part of the draw to leave her home state is to take on a new challenge, and build new connections.

“Not having been in the league for the past two years… that makes me all the more excited to be back and see what the league’s like,” Mason-Jones told media on Tuesday.

“I don’t know what to expect from other teams… but I’m really looking forward to it. I can’t wait to meet all the girls and start training.

“As a player, I really find it’s important to take opportunities and work with different people. That’s why I’m excited to work with Vicki [Linton]… she’s the one you want to impress.

“[Goalkeeping coach] Chantel Jones, I’ve had a chat with her and she sounds like she’s really professional. She’s worked in the NWSL over in America, and she sounds like a coach I can really respond to.”

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While Mason-Jones comes back into the league with a focus on improving her game, there’s also a drive to keep pushing her coaching abilities forward too.

She’s worked as a junior goalkeeping coach at both Calder United and Alamein FC while playing in their NPLW sides, putting what she’s learned so far into practice.

It’s helped her to identify what’s missing in helping female goalkeepers to reach their potential. The opportunity to learn under someone like Jones isn’t one to waste.

“I’m always looking for different point of views and what I can take on board for my playing,” Mason-Jones said.

“Now, whenever I’m training… I’m always looking at it from a coach’s point of view as well as a playing point of view. I think that really helps.

“Goalkeepers need to be really technique-based, and I think that’s really lacking in the junior side. I’ve been working with my coach Will Meadows where we can in the lead up to A-League Women. We’ve been talking about the importance of technique and developing younger goalkeepers.

“I find there’s been a real lack of support for female goalkeepers. That’s probably why we’re failing to produce so many goalkeepers for the Matildas.

“In the upcoming months, I’m looking at getting something girl-focused for the younger, elite side.

“They’re not just getting one goalkeeping session in four weeks in an elite program. That’s what I got when I was at the National Training Centre, I got one goalkeeper session with a goalkeeper coach four times for the whole season.

“I found that was really disappointing. Great for my feetwork when I was training with the girls, learning how to be an on-field footballer. I feel like there’s a lot of downfalls when it comes to junior goalkeepers, especially females.

“Hopefully I can look forward to putting something together with my coach to support them in the coming years.”

Getting out of Melbourne

After returning from her time away from football, Mason-Jones signed with Alamein FC in the NPLW.

She’s an experienced NPLW campaigner, spending seven years before that with Box Hill United, Bundoora United, Calder United and South Melbourne FC, making her debut in the Box Hill reserves at just 15.

Success seems to follow her wherever she goes, winning four premierships across that time.

Her luck ends there, however, with this season’s NPL Victoria competitions all cancelled after Victoria was plunged into lockdown once again.

Mason-Jones managed to play 10 games across the season, which wasn’t quite ideal preparation to get back into the A-League Women.

“[It’s been] difficult, to say the least, and frustrating,” she said.

“You have those bad days, especially in lockdown. You need to accept the way you’re feeling and let it out and let it be.

“Coming back, I need to make sure I’m doing everything right by my body. Making sure I’m conditioned, and working to get everything back to where it was.

“I’ve got that natural ability to stop goals, and save and dive. It’s about teaching my body to land again, and dive five days a week and have my body be okay with it.

“That’s the kind of conditioning [other] players don’t need to do. [I have] to land on body and accept this is going to hurt a bit, but you’ve done it before and have to get used to it again.

“Working with [Kat Smith at Alamein], she was really helpful. She’s got a wealth of knowledge and she really tried to help out the girls in a really mentally tough time.”

K.\t Smith (@Kat_Smith_7) | Twitter
Coach of Alamein FC, Kat Smith (pictured) has worked as an assistant coach with Melbourne Victory and a performance analyst with the Junior Matildas. (Photo: Kat Smith/Twitter)

It’s going to be a long drive, and she might not be legally allowed to make any stopovers to get there, but Mason-Jones is more than ready to be out of Melbourne’s lockdown.

She’ll be unfortunately met with two weeks of quarantine upon arrival in Canberra, but waiting on the other side of that will be the game she loves.

“I am just so excited to get out of here,” Mason-Jones laughed.

“I’ve never lived interstate. I’ve lived out of home, but packing my bags and going somewhere where I don’t have any family or friends sounds scary, but I’m really excited.

“I can branch out as a person and as a footballer. Who knows from there, maybe Canberra’s just the start of another adventure.”

The United squad is now 12 women strong, including Michelle Heyman, Emma Ilijoski, Laura Hughes, Allira Toby, Grace Maher, Keeley Richards, Hayley Taylor-Young, Lauren Keir, Holly Caspers, Margot Robinne, Chloe Middleton, and Mason-Jones.

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