Now and then: the story of Grace and Georgia

More than a decade ago, Grace Johnston and Georgia Cassidy, with wide eyes and piggy tails, ran around the pitch in Western Australia as ball girls for Perth Glory.

Back then, they were playing for their local Skill Acquisition Program in Perth. Sometimes they’d play against each other in local teams, mostly made up of boys. As they got older, they’d play in the NPLW Western Australia competition, and represent their state in the Football West National Training Centre.

After training with the Perth Glory side last season, both Grace and Georgia made their A-League Women’s debut in their sides 2-0 triumph against Western United in round one of the 2023/24 season.

Now, the pair are representing their country together as part of the CommBank Young Matildas squad in China. The duo have grown up together and have had very similar footballing journeys so far, which often saw them fighting for the same opportunities.

“We’ve always hated each other,” Grace joked, smiling across at Georgia. “We were day ones from the start, but we’ve always had a rivalry. I remember we were in the same position, so we’d always be competing for the same spot.”

“There’s not that many opportunities in Perth, so we’d always be competing to go and train with Perth Glory, or to represent the state. It was either one of us or none of us. We never both got picked for something… we were frenemies, really” Georgia added.

But as they got older, their rivalry shifted into an unlikely friendship.

“We drifted into different positions, I’m a six and Georgia was a ten, so we started to work together. Our old coach would never put us on the same team in training, because we’d have too much fun together.

“Everything we do is competitive, even our fitness tests – It’s my aim just to beat Georgia, and then I’m out. If she drops out I’m gone the next one.” Grace said.

“We always had each other to compete with. Even if you’re friends, even at training, we were always trying to beat each other” Georgia confirmed.

The healthy competition between them hasn’t just created two exemplary athletes, it’s also led to a blossoming friendship – especially in long stints away from home when they’re travelling with the CommBank Young Matildas.

“It’s good to have a familiar face in camp now. When I’ve been away previously, coming into camp is a daunting experience, you don’t really know anyone” said Grace.

Georgia feels the same way. “It is a bit easier, knowing you have someone to go to if you’re having a bad day or you don’t train well. It’s very comforting.

I’m glad that we’re doing it together. We’ve grown up together and we’re making it together, and it’s nice to share these experiences.”

Grace and Georgia by Tiff Williams

From ball girls to the big leagues, there’s a bright future ahead for this mischievous duo.

“I want to make it big in football, but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. I’d love to play for Arsenal, that’s my dream, but obviously you don’t get there without a lot of hard work and a few hiccups along the way” Georgia said.

For Grace, her short-term footballing goals are to continue playing with the CommBank Young Matildas and getting minutes in the A-League. “Maybe even score a goal, we’ll see how we go” she said with a smile.  

“We still make the odd jokes here and there, but really I wouldn’t want to do it all with anyone else” said Georgia.

“I’ve got memories of us running out as ball girls for Perth Glory when we were little, with all the older players. Now it’s switched – were the ones playing and there’s ball girls running out with us.”