All Photos Credit: Emily Mogic Photography
2015 has been a tough year for Brianna Davey. Debuting as a 16 year old in 2012, Davey was a Matildas regular until her shock omission from the World Cup squad.
Now after a successful AFL season, Bri has returned to the W-League as part of the powerhouse Melbourne City squad.
Tell us about Melbourne City. What’s it like compared to other places you’ve played in terms of professionalism and facilities?
It’s absolutely amazing at City. I’ve only been part of a few clubs but it’s by far the most professional environment I’ve been part of. I put it up there with Matildas camps in the professionalism they try and hold there.
They give us the support we need. The men’s team are very good with us. They see us around and ask us how we’re doing. To have that sort of respect from the men’s team I think gives us more belief and a bit more inspiration to do really well in this league but also self motivation to realise that the women’s game is coming along and starting to grow a lot.
I think even the international girls who have played in big leagues and have been around the most professional environments have been really impressed with how well they’re treated and how professional it is at Melbourne City.
Where does the professionalism come from and how does that culture get created in a brand new club?
Facilities are important. Previously we’ve had to train on pitches that just weren’t good enough. Small things like fields are weedy, there are potholes.
Things like having access to an ice bath straight after training, it’s next level at Melbourne City and I’m hoping that most clubs start to look that way and I think the league will take off if that happens. More girls will want to play if they feel important.
It has felt pretty amateur [in the past at other clubs] and we deserve better than that.
It’s been awhile since we’ve seen you play. Where are you at with your injury?
My major injury has been my ankle. I actually did that probably about four and a half months ago playing AFL on my downtime. It was about a month before the exhibition match and I was told it was just a sprain. I played in that game but I was in a bit of pain.
The injury itself is a sprained ligament; a high ankle sprain which goes around the front of the ankle and right up your leg. I also did the ligaments at the back and it pulled a bit of the bone off, so I had a bit of floating bone which was giving me impingement pain in my achillies. It was pretty nasty.
My ankle is pretty fine now. It’s just the strength in it that needs to be worked on. Now it’s just about strengthening up my body and I’m hoping to come back in the next couple of weeks.
What was the background to your crossover to AFL and have you learnt specifically from AFL that will help you in football?
I wanted to keep fit so it wasn’t just for fun. It’s quite different. There’s lots of running involved with AFL. I love running which some people find abnormal for a goalkeeper.
Reaction time needs to be good in footy and I think that going from a football back to a round ball maybe makes it a little bit easier because a football will bounce in any direction and you have to react very quickly and goalkeeping is a lot about reactions. Definitely that has helped coming back from football to soccer.
Also, I was playing in the midfield most of the time, and a lot of it is about explosive power, breaking packs and using that physicality. Obviously in goalkeeping it’s very explosive and it’s probably the most physical position you can play on the field. You’re throwing your body at the ball. That definitely helped and it’s something I will take into my goalkeeping.
The AFL has grand plans for women in football. Should we be worried about a potential change of codes, not just for you, but for lots of female sportspeople out there who may change to AFL?
To be honest I think yes. I think a lot of codes have to worry.
Footy will be quite attractive to a lot of girls because it’s not discriminating against anything. With sports like basketball for example, you have to be tall most of the time. Whereas footy it doesn’t matter if you’re small or tall. It’s one of those where literally anyone can play it.
It is an attractive sport. It’s fun. I think the culture around football is absolutely amazing. It’s so positive and it’s so uplifting. I guess that’s one thing I noticed. It’s still very pure. As it gets bigger, maybe it will lose that purity a little bit.
I think there will be code hoppers especially if it really does expand but I think that’s still a fair few years away.
This is the first time you’ve talked about your World Cup omission. Describe what you went through and where you want to be in the future.
Obviously, it was absolutely shattering.
Being a part of the senior national team, going into training as a 14 year old and then getting my first cap at 16 and then being there quite consistently up until being dropped for the World Cup team. So for four years being consistently in the number one spot quite closely with Lyds [Lydia Williams], it is shattering [to be dropped].
You sacrifice a lot and you work your butt off to get where you want to be and then the pinnacle of women’s soccer came and I missed out.
At the start it was shock because I thought I deserved to be there. I had been part of it for so long so when it happened it was harder to deal with as well. It’s always hard.
For anyone in that position it’s going to be difficult, but obviously being part of it for a while it was pretty heartbreaking.
After that happened I sort of went MIA for a bit. I needed that break and I picked up footy [AFL]. Initially with footy it was just to have a bit of fun and I didn’t want anything too serious because I needed to get some enjoyment back into sport.
It was great for me. I needed that break and I needed a focus on something else. Obviously I did well with it and I got picked for the exhibition match. That was cool but I wasn’t really aiming for that at all.
As I said, it was a shattering experience and at the moment I guess for me coming back to the W-League, in all honesty it was a little bit daunting. I was a bit unsure about whether I was playing this season and then I decided I’m going to do it.
I don’t owe anything to anyone. I don’t need to prove myself to anyone. I guess I just want to prove to myself how good I can be. So going back into W-League I want to be 100% ready to go.
After W-League, I guess from there I will see where I’m at and how I feel with football.
In terms of Matildas, at the moment I have decided to have a break. I was called into the first camp after the World Cup and I said I just need a break from it.
So whether I return next year to the national team, that’s if I get invited back, is still a little bit up in the air, but at the moment for me, I want to play W-League and I want to see how I feel about it.
The support I received was quite overwhelming not just from the girls [Matildas squad] but from the public. A lot of people reached out to me after what happened and I guess in a way it made it harder but it also made it better.
In the short term, are the Olympics in Rio out of scope for you?
Right now I’m coming back from injury. Getting myself right. Playing W-League and then just going from there.
At the moment I don’t have any major expectations. I just want to enjoy myself and then going with it from there whether it’s playing overseas or playing in the national team.
The next World Cup, France 2019, is a few years away. What’s your longer term plan?
Playing internationally is definitely a possibility. I played in Sweden. It was a great experience for me. I was quite young. It was two years ago and I was 18.
It was really tough. I absolutely adore my family and I get quite homesick as well. It was tough but the football was amazing and I don’t regret it because I grew as a person and as a footballer.
I’ve always been about challenging myself so I think in terms of France 2019 it is in my plans but I’m still going to take things in my stride and at the moment.
For me, the first thing is getting myself fit again. Playing W-League and see what happens next year and make some decisions there. I think everything happens for a reason.