The pipeline from Australia to Alabama State University continues to deliver, with former Australian Schoolgirls representative Grace Norbury signing with the Hornets. Norbury becomes the fifth Australian to sign with the Hornets in recent years, following Katherine McCleary, Anastasia McCleary, Sophie Bui and 2014 College Matildas Player of the Year, Shelbi Vienna-Hallam.
With 67 NPL Victoria first team appearances under her belt, Norbury has already proven herself amongst high-level competition, spending two seasons with Bayside United before moving to Box Hill United for the 2019 season. Whilst at Box Hill United, Norbury played alongside former Central Connecticut State striker Emma Hubbard and one-time Oregon State fullback Olivia Ellis in a team that finished 5th, just one point shy of a finals berth.
However, it is the list of Australian Schoolgirls teammates that Norbury has played with that will catch the eye, not only of college soccer fans, but W-League fans. The 2017 team that Norbury played on featured 2019 College Matildas Freshman of the Year, Eliza Ammendolia, as well as UMBC pair Abi Jordan and Teal Kilbride, Wyoming midfielder Indianna Asimus, and former Wyoming striker Caitlin Pickett. That side, which toured the US, also featured Sydney FC striker Shadeene Evans, and brought home the SoCal Winter Cup whilst also reaching the semi-final of the Dallas Cup.
“A true box to box midfielder that can both win the ball in defence and quickly transition into supporting our attack going forward,” is how Alabama State coach Jodie Smith described Norbury, and considering the Hornets’ statistical marks of recent years, the Victorian could be the perfect fit. Alabama State’s numbers in terms of both scoring and conceding goals have faltered slightly in recent seasons, particularly at the defensive end. If Norbury can step in and plug the gaps in midfield, hopefully the Hornets can bring their goals against average down from an eye-watering 2.7 in 2019 so the 2.04 they posted in 2018, or even lower still.
Norbury’s signing doubles the number of Australians on the Alabama State roster, with Sophie Bui having made 10 appearances for the Hornets in 2019. Having won consecutive SWAC Championships in 2016 and 2017, Alabama State will be hoping their Australian pairing can help return them to the promised land of the NCAA Tournament following two early exits in the conference tournament in the past two seasons.