Naomi Chinnama loves defending. Her competitive nature, pace, and technical ability have made the 17-year-old a standout in a league filled with young up-and-coming talents.
“I like winning the ball back,” says the Melbourne City player
“I do enjoy going into good challenges with the players, I like the physicality of the game.
“It’s one of the things I really enjoy as a defender.”
She is adept at that position and has always felt most at home winning the ball back for her team.
“I did start off as a defender, but I did move around a lot.
“I became a midfielder maybe a “six”, I was a fullback and moved from center back to fullback a lot.”
Chinnama’s love for the game was forged in the backyard. Her childhood featured what she calls “home training sessions” with her two brothers.
Having made her senior debut last season at the age of 16, She has since established herself as the best player in the family.
However, football was a game that she had to rediscover.
She had played as a child in an under-sevens all-boys team with twin brother Jacob and was coached by her father.
Chinnama then stopped playing football to explore other sports. It was the small-sided game that brought her back.
“I took a break from football for three years after playing under-sevens.
“I played a bunch of other sports (tennis, athletics, and gymnastics), and then I got back into it.
“I joined the state futsal team and later on I represented Victoria at nationals.”
It was at this point that she realized a future in football as possible. Chinnama’s progress was rapid, she made her senior NPLW debut at the age of 14 but the indoor game left its mark.
“I definitely think it’s a very different game from normal football.
“It’s tighter, it helps with touches, combination play, and also quick and fast movement.
“Especially from a defensive point of view.”
“I really enjoyed the intensity”
It is not uncommon for young players to perform well in the A-League WOMEN. Chinnama has looked comfortable at the top level since her debut.
After being thrown in the deep end against the eventual premiers Sydney FC last season, Chinnama adjusted to the league almost instantly. It was no surprise when Melbourne City re-signed her for two years.
It is a testament to her quality that such a big step up was made to look so easy.
“I was kind of taken aback by how quick and strong the girls were…it helped me to develop my game. I learned a lot from that….I really thought that the standard was very high.
“It was an eye-opening experience because I realized there was so much I needed to do to play in the A-League Women’s.
“It was a very good challenge from me I would say.”
Chinnama has so far been equal to the challenge. She credits not only those childhood years but also the environment at City for her development.
“I really enjoyed the intensity, and also the training environment.
“It was definitely a whole new level of intensity that I was exposed to.
“I wasn’t used to running so much…which was really good It helped with my fitness in the game.
“I learned a lot under Rado’s (Vidosic) coaching style, a lot of things I didn’t know before.
“Especially a new configuration it was something I had to adapt to but once I did it felt like a whole different way to play football so I enjoyed it.”
When asked about her influences at City, she is quick to mention a universally popular figure.
“I really enjoy learning from Stotty (Rebekah Stott).
“I hadn’t played with her before. She just comes every now and again and gives me a few tips, telling me to do this instead of that.
“I definitely think it’s helping me see a different perspective.”
“I also would like to score some goals”
Handling an on-field structure is one thing, finishing high school while stopping some of Australia’s best strikers is a whole other task.
“I would say I’m quite disciplined,” says Chinnama of managing her difficult and at times conflicting schedule.
“Whenever I have training I would organize some time afterward to get in my schoolwork.
“I’ll put down when things are due, I’ll do it that way in an orderly fashion.
“I definitely think at some point it’s burning the candle at both ends. When it felt like that I would just take a break day.
“It’s very flexible, when it got towards exams it was a bit of pressure but I still handled it well.”
Chinnama is a natural defender with good pace. She is confident and competitive, and in an era when The Matildas are exploring depth and youth, a call-up is a possibility.
“I would like to have a shot playing with the Matildas whenever the chance arises.
“I think that would be exciting but the priority right now is to continue working hard, and learning more of City’s style of play.
“I just want to make sure that I try to learn as much as I can to try and improve as a player technically and tactically.”
In the short term, her goals are even simpler. Melbourne Victory awaits this weekend and a potential match-up with her South Melbourne teammate Melina Ayres.
“I’m excited I definitely think it’s going to be a good challenge,” she says of facing the Victory striker.
“She’s definitely been someone to watch.”
As for her other ambitions, the player who loves a tackle and a block also would like to get in on the action at the other end.
“I also would like to score some goals, that would be cool.,” she says, remembering some highlights of youth football.
“When I represented Victoria at Nationals at Coffs Harbor, I scored two goals as a center back.
“I scored one as a header. It was this cool play we had organized and I’d run from the front post all the way to the back post and the corner would be played in.
“It was the first goal of the competition. That was definitely a highlight.
“Then I scored the last goal for the completion. I actually was playing fullback. I won the ball from a girl that took and bad touch and started driving (upfield) and I shot and scored.”
This coming week, that would be a bonus for City. Vidosic’s team and Chinnama will be more focused on stopping the champion’s star-studded attack.
In Naomi Chinnama, Melbourne City has a defender not only capable of playing on the best, but one who looks actively looks forward to it.