Keeley Richards is Canberra United's first goalkeeper signing for 2021/22. (Photo: Canberra United)

Keeley Richards steps back into the net for Canberra United in 2021/22, confident on making the most of an injury-free pre-season.

Keeley Richards is determined not to annoy the ‘goalkeeping gods’ after re-signing for her second season at Canberra United.

Herself and fellow young keeper Sally James were both injured across various points of the 2020/21 W-League season. The goalkeeping crisis got so much so that keeping specialist coach Chantel Jones was forced to pull the gloves back on for another go around.

There’s some sort of bad karma business going on at Viking Park.

Young midfielder Laura Hughes recently stepped into the net as a muck around at training, and came away with a broken finger for her troubles.

Richards becomes United’s first goalkeeper signed for the 2021/22 season, the club also confirming today that Jones will take up her coaching post once again.

The (gloved) fingers are crossed that she won’t have to step onto the pitch again this year.

“I had a chat about [goalkeeping] to Hughesy, and I told her she didn’t quite have the personality for it,” Richards laughed as she spoke to media on Thursday.

“We did just seem to have a really, really unlucky break. Sal last year broke her finger mid-game.

“It was one of the first things Vicki said when she called me [to re-sign], was ‘how is everything?’ It’s good I promise!”

It’s not all fun and games with Richards’ injury history, though.

Before she entered the W-League, she struggled to stay on the park for more than a few games at a time with persistent injuries and surgeries.

Keeley Richards signs with Canberra United | Canberra United
Richards keeping for NPL Queensland side Logan Lightning. (Photo: Canberra United)

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One of the biggest positives of being in a professional club environment has been finally being able to get her body right and earn consistent minutes.

“Coming off the four knee operations, I didn’t really have the support to get back [at NPL level] to where I should have been at. Having the programs and specific training to work on what I need to, it’s been so much better,” Richards said.

“It’s the best [my knee] has felt, so I’m really lucky to have that opportunity and have access to all of that.

In the net with Chantel Jones

With Jones re-joining the coaching panel, Richards will once again have the opportunity to learn from one of the great veteran heads of goalkeeping.

She’s spoken more than once on the guidance she showed her in 2020/21 stepping up to the elite level. Honing her craft under Jones should make for even further improvement this season.

“Playing under Chantel, and even just being able to watch her play and the presence she has on the field, is something that I’m very envious of and hopefully something I continue to work towards,” Richards said.

“Having her there week in, week out is something that I jumped at the chance to do again.”

There weren’t many dark spots on Richards’ first season in United colours, outside of injury. If you had to choose one though, the 3-0 semi-final loss to Sydney FC would be in the mix.

Youngster Mackenzie Hawkesby found a vital header in the 15th minute, setting the tone for an uphill battle for the girls in green.

Ally Green sealed the deal late, with an absolute screamer from long range for her first ever W-League goal.

Having a role model like Jones to look to has helped Richards to move on and focus on improvement.

“She just has a presence that’s very calming, through the warm-ups, through everything,” Richards said.

“She knows what to say because she’s done it all before, and she’s always got the right answers. It’s a very grounding experience having her alongside you.”

United has now signed six players for the 2021/22 W-League season.

Michelle Heyman
Emma Ilijoski
Laura Hughes
Allira Toby
Grace Maher
Keeley Richards
Sally James (Melbourne City)
Demi Koulizakis (Perth Glory)
Paige Satchell (Sydney FC)
Jessika Nash (Sydney FC)
Bianca Galic (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Clare Hunt (Western Sydney Wanderers)

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