Stanbury opens up about her autism

Emma Stanbury

Emma Stanbury made a spontaneous and candid revelation to Jarrod Walsh on The Pitch Podcast, disclosing that she has autism.

Her brave decision to reveal her autism to the public was predicated on trying to help inspire the next generation of girls and boys who may have the neurodevelopmental disorder. 

In her words, the 30-year-old discussed how this year she wanted to “take the mask off” and be true to herself.

“I definitely did not plan to announce this here,” Stanbury told Jarrod on episode six of The Pitch Podcast.

“Only like this year, I’ve been open about the fact that I’m actually autistic.

“So I have a different brain. My brain works in a completely different way.

“I told this coaching staff and I’ve told previous coaching staffs before and this one (at Adelaide United) has really taken it on board and they’re doing things at training to support me.

“And getting me to training early so I can see the way the passing practices work, rather than do it on the spot because my brain just melts sometimes.

“I haven’t really told people, but it’s only this year that I’m kind of being open about it, because I’m kind of taking that mask off and really being me.

“And like I said it’s shown in my performance because I just feel so supported.”   


Stanbury is also a proud Ngadjuri woman and wanted to come ‘home’. Ngadjuri Country is located north of Adelaide which extends from Gawler in the south and includes the State’s Mid North, Clare Valley, Barossa and the Southern Flinders Rangers.

Originally from Canberra, it was another reason why she jumped at the opportunity to ply her trade in Adelaide.

Stanbury explained that she views herself as a bit of a maverick and when she is given the licence to play with freedom and less rigid tactical instructions, she plays her best football. 

Adrian Stenta and his coaching staff have patently facilitated this aspect of her game and it has enabled her to thrive.

This has certainly been made evident in her first two appearances for the Reds where she has been extremely impactful in the centre of the park.

The midfielder said the supportive culture at the Club and safe environment created have further given her more confidence to share her story and be open about her autism.

She hopes her admission will allow young people with autistic challenges to know that they can accomplish goals and live a fulfilling life.

Stanbury was not playing in the Liberty A-League during the 2020/21 season, but since she’s back in the competition she wanted to use her platform to advocate and bring awareness to autism.

“We’ve got the support of the PFA,” she said.

“And I’ve been speaking to them a lot about it and I thought, I wasn’t playing W-League (now called Liberty A-League) this year and I’m 30 now.

“And if I am open about it then maybe that can give younger people that do have autism that feel restricted or feel, ‘I might not be able to do this’, they can see actually there’s someone right there that’s doing it.

“And that there is support to be able to do it as well because I didn’t have that growing up.

“I couldn’t see that kind of role model or person and I think it would’ve helped me a lot.

“I’m a bit sweaty right now doing it because I’m very nervous about just throwing it out there to the world.”