On October 16, 2021, young Liverpool goalkeeper Rylee Foster was violently thrown from the rear seat of a car through the windshield when her friend lost control when the car hydroplaned. Foster underwent a series of surgeries for a variety of injuries, including severe spinal injuries that were deemed life threatening. It was initially not clear if Foster would ever be able to live normally again, much less play the sport she loved.
After being in a halo device to keep her spine stable and supported for nine months, Foster began her long and arduous journey in an attempt to return to play in August of 2022. There was no expectation that she would play for Matt Beard’s side in their first season back in the WSL side last year.
The young Canadian revealed to the BBC’s Emma Sanders that she also wasn’t sure if she wanted to return to the sport even if should could recover fully. Foster said she had even begun pursuing law school and finance opportunities with the help of the Professional Footballer’s Association.
“When you are out of the game for so long you lose that spark. You lose that passion because you are away from the environment and not doing it every day. You start navigating different areas of your life.”
“Those opportunities made me wonder if my injuries were a way of directing me into a different way of life. Was I always going down the football path just because I was good at it? Or was there something else out there for me that was what I was meant to be doing?
“That was an inner battle I was constantly having with myself. I was trying to figure out what the best way of handling it all was.”
Ultimately, Foster decided to stick with football, and worked hard to make a return. Disappointingly, Liverpool declined to offer her a new contract after her existing one expired. It was a blow that the club she had supported since she was a child let her go, leaving her in the wilderness.
Foster joined Scottish side Celtic on a trial this summer, playing in five preseason matches. The club then declined to sign her, citing a knee issue from a medical. It was a gut punch for Foster.
“When everything fell through at Celtic it made things worse. Here I was playing, then a failed medical doesn’t look good. News travels fast in the women’s game. I had to prove myself all over again after fighting for the last two years to get back. It was difficult.
“I was getting clubs saying ‘we can’t take the risk’ and ‘we’re going to go for this keeper because they are more healthy’. I understand and respect those decisions but I just wanted someone to take a chance, to trust in me and take that risk.”
Thankfully, A-League side Wellington Phoenix took the leap and signed the 25 year old. On Saturday, almost two years to the date of her accident, Foster took the field for the New Zealand based club. It was 731 days since Foster had last played a competitive match.
While Foster played well, making four saves and showing great athleticism to thwart chances on a few occasions, it was not a dream finish. Foster made a save on a sharp shot, but spilled the rebound that was pounced on for the only goal of the match. Despite that, it was wonderful to see Foster back on the pitch.
While it was an amazing accomplishment just to get back on the field, Foster isn’t satisfied with just being a feel good story. She is determined to work towards being a regular starter domestically, as well as to push to make the Canadian Olympic team next summer.
“I know I need game time so I’m thinking of myself as a ‘rookie’ this season. I just need to put myself back on the map. I want to be back with the national team by the end of the year. We have the Olympics coming up so that’s the goal. I really, really want to do that. But I also just want to enjoy the game and recognize that it can be taken away from you at any moment.”
Here at TLO towers, we hope that Rylee can continue to defy the odds and make it to the top of the game. YNWA, Rylee, we’re all pulling for you!