Years before Emma Ilijoski was running around Viking Park in a lime green jersey, she was taking photos with her idol, and future teammate, Michelle Heyman.
Growing up in the ACT, she idolised Canberra United players - taking photographs with the likes of Heyman and Grace Gill - before she herself became a W-League player.
"It's so important having role models and people in your team that you can look up towards," Ilijoski said.
"Having Michelle and other W-League players, or ex-W-League players ... in the Canberra NPL ... as a young player I appreciated that and I looked up to them so much when I was growing up, so I can only imagine it does the same for those girls today."
The 18-year-old started her elite career with United's Academy program before she moved across into the under 16 boys NPL competition to grow her game.
She credits both for her development, in addition to her move to the NSW NPLW last year.
During her last two seasons in the NSW NPLW, at clubs NWS Koalas and Sydney University SFC, she has played along side the likes of W-League stalwarts Nat Tobin, Clare Wheeler, Taren King and Alisha Bass.
Wheeler has made more than 60 appearances in the W-League, before making her move in June to join Danish club Fortuna Hjorring.
Ilijoski said playing alongside Wheeler and other professional players in the league showed her what was possible.
"Having Clare Wheeler, she's a jet, she was so good for us," she said.
"So seeing her go overseas, showed that it ... really wasn't that untouchable. So to be able to think ... as a prospect to hopefully go overseas, one day, it definitely shows that you can do it," she said.
"I was just ready for that step up to go into Sydney where every single game was a big challenge ... a lot of W-League players and quality players are in that league so ... there's no one game where you're not trying your hardest for your team because every game is so important, because every team is so good."
Despite the hint at international aspirations, for now, Ilijoski said there was no where else she would rather be than playing in front of family, friends and fans in Canberra.
The defender has signed on for her second season with United, after racking up 900 minutes in green in 2020-21.
United went down 3-0 to Sydney FC in the semi-finals last year, in their first finals series since 2016-17, and Ilijoski said they were hungry to go one better this season.