The number of Aussies on the roster at Little Rock is growing at a rapid rate following the announcement that Canberra’s Emily Jensen and Melbourne’s Candice Kilderry will join the program for the 2023 season. With Western Australia’s Cameron Barreiro joining on a transfer from Sam Houston State and Brisbane-raised Kiwi Serenity Thake already on the roster, the Trojans have quickly built a significant connection to Australia in just a couple of years.
Originally from the nation’s capital, Jensen has been a fixture in NPL New South Wales in recent years after moving to Manly United in 2021. The winger split time between first grade and the reserves in that season, making five appearances for the first team and notching a single goal in 11 reserve grade appearances before the season was cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdowns.
Following the 2021 season, Jensen moved to Sydney University and again split time between the two grades. Once again, the Canberran made five first grade appearances, but also tallied two goals in 23 reserve grade appearances to help the Students to a championship after defeating premiers Football NSW Institute 6-1 in the 2022 grand final.
A move to NWS Spirit for 2023 has seen Jensen move into the first team on an almost-exclusive basis, making 13 NPLNSW first grade appearances plus another two Sapphire Cup outings alongside a solitary reserve grade appearance. Regularly coming off the bench but also making occasional starts in a team featuring several A-League Women’s players including Nat Tobin and Rola Badawiya, Jensen has firmly established herself as an integral part of a team that currently sits second in the NPLNSW standings.
Meanwhile, Candice Kilderry has been part of the FV Emerging NPL side since 2019 after making the move from Southern United. The midfielder’s first season in the top grade saw her make 12 appearances, whilst also banging home 18 goals in 25 games for the Under 19 team, just a year after scoring 15 goals in 24 appearances for Southern United’s Under 14 outfit.
Despite interruptions to both the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kilderry still managed to make 49 appearances for the FV Emerging first team, notching nine goals in the process. This included five goals in 20 appearances as FV Emerging reached the semi-finals in 2022 before falling to eventual champions Calder United. Like Jensen, Kilderry played alongside a number of A-League Women’s players during her time in NPL, as well as current Santa Clara forward and Young Matildas representative Holly Furphy.
Little Rock’s first season in the Ohio Valley Conference saw the Trojans finish 5-7-5 overall and 2-3-3 in conference play, with their struggles at the attacking end preventing them for securing more victories. Tallying just 0.94 goals per game and failing to score on six occasions, adding two players with attacking prowess in Kilderry and Jensen could greatly improve their scoring output and perhaps flip a few results that didn’t go their way in 2022.