Australian attacking midfielder Natasha Brough is out to make her name in professional football in the Netherlands after joining Dutch club VV Alkmaar.
Hunter Valley-born and Spain-raised Brough has left Catalonian club La Roca to make the move this season to the Netherlands. The 19-year-old, who has spent the past decade living and playing in Spain, is seeking to have an impact on the Vrouwen Eredivsie.
“I joined in June, came over for a month and then went back to Barcelona for summer, then came here in August,” she told SBS The World Game.
“It’s been a journey, definitely. Initially, it was a bit different to what I thought, just adapting to different styles of football.
“But I was really lucky as the club has been really nice and the coach is really open to how each player plays and working with each player. All the girls and the team are really lovely.
“The last month has been really good, I’ve pretty much fully adapted now. The club has quite a family-feel, all the girls get on. It’s one big group. It’s a smaller club but I think that helps to have that family feel to it.”
VV Alkmaar finished sixth last season and currently sit in seventh spot on the league ladder, with two draws and two defeats after four rounds. The appeal of Dutch football, and facing off against the likes of giants Ajax and PSV, was the lure for Brough.
“I really wanted to step up into one of the top divisions for women’s football,” she explained.
“Initially I was looking at France, and had some offers to go on trial, but with Covid-19 it was all a little bit uncertain. I knew the Netherlands had a strong league, but a small league, so I thought it could be a good opportunity.
“I got some offers from Dutch teams and Alkmaar just fitted in with me and the coach believed in me. She wanted me to play number 10, and it just felt really right to go to Alkmaar.”
Brough has been playing regularly for VV Alkmaar’s B team, scoring a goal and picking up an assist in a recent win over PEC Zwolle, as she looks to make her Vrouwen Eredivsie debut. The playmaker admits adapting to the Dutch style of play has been interesting.
“I came from Spain’s Under-19s, the Spanish football is more team-orientated in terms of playing lots of short passes, and using the ball as a team,” she said.
“Here it’s a bit more individual, definitely a lot more physical, which has been interesting and good for me to learn a new style of play. We’ve played four games and it hasn’t been going so great, but the coach has wanted to wait to introduce me slowly into the games.”
Brough’s footballing background is different to most Australian players, after her family departed the Hunter region town of Maitland where she was born and relocated to Spain when she was eight years old.
“Initially my parents wanted to give me and my brother a life change, to experience new cultures and grow as people,” she explained.
“And Spain as my brother was playing football at the time. That was why we chose Spain. When we moved to Valencia, first I joined a local team for a year.
“Then I joined a local all-girls team that they just started. I played there for two years, and I remember initially coming to Spain it was a bit of a shock because in Spain there were no girls playing football at the time. That was really strange to me.
“So I played one year at a boys club, then two years at a girls club and then I got picked up to play for Valencia for two years. After those two years, I moved to Barcelona with my family and I played one year for Espanyol, then I went into the Under-19s when I was 14.”
Brough’s years in the Iberian Peninsula meant she is now eligible to represent La Roja. The teenager has been involved with Australian Under-17s and Under-19s camps in the past but concedes she is undecided on whether to elect to represent the Matildas or Spain if selected in the future.
“I definitely want to play international football as it’s the highest level you can play,” Brough said.
“But I have been in a bit of a conflict if I want to play for Australia or go and play for Spain. I’ve been to the Australian camps and I feel more Australian as a person but as a footballer, I feel I’ve done all my development in Spain, and I noticed a big difference in how I think about football compared with the Australian style.
“At the moment I’m just working on being the best player I can be and then when the opportunity comes I’ll make a decision. At the moment I’m 50-50.
“I’ve spent half my life in Australia and half my life in Spain, so it’s difficult. I have Australian parents so all my values are Australian, but all my football career, at least the important part, was in Spain so my playing style is very Spanish.”