The 25-year-old striker has overcome three serious knee injuries to relaunch her international career with the Republic of Ireland at the end of last year and now get a crack at the FA Women's Super League after signing a six-month contract with the Seagulls.
She said, “I’m absolutely delighted that Brighton are willing to take a chance on me and I’m hoping that a move into a full-time environment will help me reach my potential. There’s definitely a lot more to come from me.”
Jarrett has twice suffered anterior cruciate ligament injuries to her right knee – the first when she was still a teenager – and then a third to her left knee in 2016. “That took me 14 months and challenged me mentally, but everyone was so supportive, my club back home [Wexford Youth], family and friends,” she said.
“My end goal was to play again and then try and reach the level I believe I am capable of, and now it has happened. I’ve had two full seasons under my belt injury-free and got back in the Ireland team.
“This will be a step up from training twice a week, but when I am ready to play, hopefully I can show what I can do. I can’t wait to get on the training ground and get going.”
Jarrett put her intimate knowledge of knee injuries to good use. During one period of rehab she wrote a thesis on comparison rates of ACL injuries between male and female footballers in America as part of a sports management and coaching course.
Determined to try and maximise her potential, she arranged her own sessions with a strength & conditioning coach and nutritionist, and a few weeks before helping her club retain their FAI Cup title, she scored her first international goal for Ireland in a Euro 2021 qualifier against Ukraine.
But when her team-mates scattered after the game to play for their respective clubs around the globe, Rianna had to go back to her day job in Wexford working for a financial services company.
All that changed earlier this week after Albion, impressed with her performance in a two-day trial, offered her a professional deal. She said, “My manager has always given me time off for football and he knew that there was a chance I might leave during the January transfer window. So, when I went to tell him on Tuesday, he said, ‘You’ve got something to tell me haven’t you?’ so he kind of knew!”
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The Arsenal fan follows the WSL closely, and there was at least one familiar face in the Albion dressing room when she arrived at the club this week to help her settle in. “I know Megan Connolly from Ireland and she spoke very highly of the coaching set-up and the club itself as well as the Brighton area,” she said. “The way the women’s squad will be part of the main training complex next season is brilliant, it’s such a great set-up and I am determined to be a success here.”
Rianna’s family are sports-mad, and when she was eight she won a competition and ended playing tennis in front of John McEnroe and the then Prime Minister Tony Blair outside 10 Downing Street. But football was always her first love.
“I was offered a scholarship to a private school to play tennis, but I started playing football with my twin brother when I was six – when I had to make the choice, it was always going to be football.”