Emma Ilijoski has been described as one of the "most consistent" players for Canberra United last season, playing 900 minutes in her W-League debut year, and she says it will be special to pull on her hometown jersey for another.
Ilijoski has signed on with United for her second campaign to help shore up the side's defensive line following her breakout W-League season with the club in 2020-21.
Her off-season did not go to plan due to COVID-19. She was 10 games into her second NSW NPLW season with her new club Sydney University SFC before the league was canned.
Despite her disrupted off-season, Ilijoski said she could not wait to play for United again.
"I feel such pride and gratitude towards Vicki and the staff to be back playing for Canberra United this season," the 18-year-old said.
"Last season was so special; being my debut, making the finals series and most importantly, building something really exciting within the squad."
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The defender debuted for United in round five before she went on to start every match that followed to record 900 minutes in her first season.
The Canberran joins W-League all-time record goal-scorer Michelle Heyman on United's roster, as the second signing to be announced.
Ilijoski helped United qualify for the finals for the first time since 2016-17 last season. She hoped their form would continue into the upcoming campaign.
"We are determined to continue that success and go one better to continue doing the club and supporters proud," she said.
"To be given another opportunity to play for the badge, fans and my family means everything to me. I am prepared and looking forward to giving my all to the club."
Ilijoski plied her trade rising through the ranks of the Canberra United Academy before she made the switch to the NPL Gungahlin United under-16s side and later Sydney's NPLW side NWS Koalas in 2020 to improve her game.
Her form earned her several call-ups to the Junior Matildas program before her debut W-League season caught the eye of the senior side. That form earned her a call-up into the Matildas Talent Identification Camp late last year, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
United coach Vicki Linton sees the same potential as the national selectors it seems and said she was pleased to have Ilijoski back in lime green for 2021-22.
"Emma had a wonderful debut season last year and was one of our most consistent players," she said.
"It is great for us as a club to be able to provide these opportunities to local Canberra players and I look forward to seeing her continue to develop and grow as a player this season."
United's next signing is expected to be announced on Thursday ahead of the season's scheduled kick-off on November 13.
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