Holly Caspers joins Canberra United from NPL NSW side Sydney University. (Photo: NPL/Dan Ullman)

After working her way up through the NPL and battling injury, Sydney Uni's Holly Caspers has earned her first W-League contract with Canberra United.

Young midfielder Holly Caspers speaks proudly of the work she’s put in to get to W-League level.

The 21-year-old signed with Canberra United after nine years of working her way up the NPL in New South Wales, matching it with the seniors from a young age.

She enjoyed a strong season on return from an ACL injury, scoring three goals from 11 appearances. This included a brace in the 3-0 win over the Emerging Jets.

Caspers has proven herself much too good for NPL level. Known for her blistering pace, she’s played as a central midfielder, a winger, and a forward who can hit the scorecard regularly.

It was a long road to recovery in 2020 after a five goal, 14 game season the year prior. Rehabilitating her injury was one of the main forces spurring her on.

“I think before I did my ACL, I did have W-League on my mind, it was a goal of mine,” Caspers told media on Tuesday morning.

“When I did my ACL I sort of said to myself that if I could prove to myself I could get through this and stay motivated and committed to it for a year, I can really try for W-League.

“Throughout 2021 when I came back, I was really into trying to push myself and get into the W-League and Canberra.

“Before my ACL, I didn’t really go to the gym. [When] I was still 18 or 19, that wasn’t really in my mindset. When I did my ACL, I learnt how important strength is.

“That’s really changed my game as a forward. You need to be quick and skilful, but you need to have the strength to hold yourself up.

“Sitting out from the games for a year definitely allows you to see the games from a different perspective, from the grandstand. Watching a lot of soccer games as well improved my mindset towards the games.

“I’m really excited. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while now, and I feel really overwhelmed right now, which is exciting.”

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Alongside Allira Toby and Margot Robbine, she becomes just the third new signing for United’s 2021/22 campaign.

Joining Canberra from the Sydney Uni Football Club, Caspers has played with and against both former and current United players throughout her time.

This season she played alongside the re-signed Laura Hughes and Emma Ilijoski, as well as Nicki Flannery and Bianca Galic previously.

Caspers (far left, bottom row) lining up for Sydney Uni alongside Laura Hughes and Emma Ilijoski (top right). (Photo: Sydney Uni FC)

It might have been easy for her to feel out of place, but she now feels as though she already understands the standards she’ll be pushed towards.

“At Sydney Uni, being surrounded by so many W-League players is a great environment to push myself, and grow as a player,” Caspers said.

“It probably has made W-League seem a little bit more achievable. I was playing with W-League players and I was getting to know how they played and how they trained.

“Sydney Uni was really good in their trainings, and the level of commitment you needed to give to the team. All that involved was the stepping stones to getting me involved in the W-League.

“Canberra had Bianca Galic last year and Emma Ilijoski and Laura Hughes this year. They’ve definitely got faces I’m very familiar with, Grace Maher as well.

“Leaving New South Wales is scary… but having those familiar faces around who I’ve played with before and I’m comfortable around made the move to Canberra a lot easier.

“In terms of confidence [on pitch], knowing a few people will make the transition into the team a lot smoother. Knowing the girls will bring a bit of confidence going into the team.”

Canberra United kicks its season off on Friday, December 3 at home against Melbourne City.

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