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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

"That used to be me" - Panagaris reflects on her journey and first Adelaide United goal

A difficult start has made the 2023/24 A-League Women season a turbulent one for Adelaide United. But it has not been without its highlights. Local league star Chrissy Panagaris recently spoke to Front Page Football about her journey and first professional goal for the Reds.

Chrissy Panagaris Adelaide United

Panagaris (left) celebrates her first A-League Women's goal for Adelaide United. (Image: Ben Blaess/BDb.media)


The Adelaide Comets looked promising heading into the 2023 WNPL season. As their season approached, the attention of their star, Chrissy Panagaris, was solely on the Pre-Season Cup Final her side had reached. Then her phone rang.


As a result of Emily Condon's extended injury run, Adelaide United came calling to one of the premier WNPL players with a career-altering proposal: a first contract, albeit an injury replacement one, at the professional level.


"So I was already focusing on my game, and then I got the phone call, and I was like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ I was thinking that I just need to get through this game, and then I'll have to think about it and speak to my parents. Unfortunately, we lost that final, and then I came home and spoke with my parents," Panagaris reflected, speaking to FPF.


"It was obviously an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. It was the perfect moment for me to say yes and take the opportunity, I couldn’t say no. If I was to write a pros and cons list, there would be no cons to it. So yeah I took the opportunity and I think that Wednesday I was training with the girls."

Panagaris has been one of the standout strikers in the WNPL SA in recent seasons.


After completing the 2022/23 season with the Reds, Panagaris was retained for 2023/24, this time on a season-long contract.


Due to the nature of Australian women's football, Panagaris has to contend with two starkly different situations at club level. In the WNPL, Panagaris is one of the most formidable forwards and has even garnered interstate attention. Meanwhile, in the professional scene that is the A-League Women, the forward has admitted she is still finding her feet.


Despite the growing pains, Panagaris shared that getting out of her comfort zone is the only way to flourish.


"I think for me, I do enjoy another challenge, which is improving myself in areas where I was comfortable with, and obviously coming to this level now, I have found areas where I am lacking, and it’s shown a bit of that gap with the A-League," she explained.


"I am working on decreasing that gap, and that comes with physicality and mentality as well. The mental side of things has been tough, just with the game itself, as it is a lot quicker than NPL. It was a big challenge, but I can’t always be comfortable; you’ve just got to get out of your comfort zone."

During her time at Adelaide United, Panagaris has found herself behind players such as Fiona Worts, Chelsie Dawber, Mariah Lee, and Hannah Blake.


Despite her impressive scoring record in the WNPL SA, Panagaris is realistic in admitting that the most suitable role for her at the moment is as an impact player off the bench. Even though it can be a mental hurdle to play limited football while only receiving often inconsequential minutes, Panagaris stated that she remains ready for when she is called upon.


"Myself and Stents (Adrian Stenta) have had conversations about it and it is something that I am working towards. It is obviously baby steps at the moment in a way, because it is my first full season with the girls. I am more than grateful to be getting minutes off the bench, but it is something I am working towards. It is not going to happen tomorrow, it is something for the long-term," Panagaris shared on her limited game time.


"I knew I wasn’t quite ready for the 90 minutes, but it is something that I am definitely working towards, but it will take time; at this point in time, I would rather someone who can give 90 minutes than someone who can play 90 but not be able to contribute in the same way.


"At the moment, I am happy being that impact player, and I know that sounds weird because no one wants to be playing 20 minutes here and there, but I don’t want to push anything too soon."
Front Page Football: Chrissy Panagaris Adelaide Comets

Panagaris (right) helped the Adelaide Comets to silverware in 2023. (Image: Adam Butler/80kms)


While Panagaris has often been introduced when a game has already been decided, that was not the case when she was called upon at Coopers Stadium in the 79th minute after Adelaide United had drawn level against the Western Sydney Wanderers a month ago.


Minutes after being introduced, an Emily Hodgson run was abruptly ended by a tackle, but the ball found its way to Panagaris. The striker took two touches before dispatching a shot from outside the box into the near corner, opening her A-League Women's account in spectacular fashion.


In the chaos of the celebrations, a speechless Panagaris admits she went blank. She heard the crowd erupt, saw her family, friends, and team celebrate, and even received some friendly fire from captain Isabel Hodgson that left her slightly dazed.


The striker was lost for words after the game, but speaking to Front Page Football a couple of weeks later, she admitted that she became emotional thinking about her journey.


"I was a bit emotional, and if anyone was at the game, they would have seen my family were also emotional, so it does run in the family, but yeah, honestly, it was just so surreal," Panagaris said.


"It was definitely up there with one of my best moments; I think I was just super emotional, just looking back at my journey from when I first started to here, and all the ups and downs you go through to get to come on as an impact player and score your first A-League goal to win the game in the 85th minute."

What made the day even more special was that during the halftime break, one of the MiniRoos teams that took part in the festivities was from the Adelaide Comets, Panagaris' WNPL club. Having a strong contingent of her community at the stadium marks an event she will not be forgetting any time soon.


"Another thing that made it special has having those little Comets teams out there. Two of my nephews came out too and they were the only boys on the team, so it was great having them there," Panagaris shared.


"A few of the girls I recognised from last season also recognised me. They were all jumping around, and that was another special moment because that used to be me as well. When I first started soccer, I was looking up to all these girls, thinking that that was going to be me one day, and now I am in that position and being that example for these girls."
 

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Panagaris expressed her gratitude for the Comets, where she has solidified herself as one of the best players in the state. She dedicated the goal to her family, including her father, who coached her in the WNPL during the 2022 season, and the sacrifices they have made to aid her journey.


"In a way, I feel like that goal was a little dedication to them and a big thank you because they are a huge part of my life, and I really appreciate the huge part they have played in my journey as well. They’ve had to deal with my mood swings when I come home from training or games, and that is all from when I was little!"

"My sister has obviously had to deal with me being the favourite child, but I think she’s come to terms with it! Honestly, they have been my number one supporters, and I couldn’t obviously do what I am doing now without them. They are a huge part of my life, and I really appreciate them."


Panagaris is eager to make the most of her first full A-League Women's season before returning to the WNPL. Adelaide United's season has not gone to plan so far. However, the forward made it clear that her team is still working incredibly hard to improve their performances in the season's final stretch.


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