Heyman stepping up | TWG
A week is certainly a long time in football. Just asked Matildas’ striker Michelle Heyman. This time last week Heyman was preparing to lead her NSW Women's Premier League side Illawarra Stingrays into their major semi-final against NWS Koalas.
Fast-forward six days and not only is she making her first starting line up but also scoring her first goals.
“Well it was coming straight for me and since I was like a foot taller than most of the other players, it was a bit easier for me,” she laughed.
“As soon as I touched it with my head, I just knew it was going to go in and as I turned it was already in.”
Close to 24 hours after the match you can still sense the smile and excitement.
“I am still pretty happy. Not just about the result but about everything,” said Heyman.
“Starting was a big step for me so to have been able to start and then to actually score a goal was just icing on the cake.”
For Heyman it wasn’t a position she had imagined she would be in. Even when fellow striker Sam Kerr tore her ACL, the 23 year old didn’t dream she would be next in line.
“I didn’t think I was going to get the call up but as soon as I saw the name come up on my phone [Tom Sermanni] my belly dropped,” she remembers.
“I was shaking and I just couldn’t believe it was going to happen to me.”
“I have always waited for the phone call, so for me to get the call up, I was pretty nervous but very excited at the same time.”
“From that moment I knew that this was my shot to make it in the Matildas. I though this is going to be my only chance and I should grab it with both hands and shine.”
It was a phone call that almost didn’t happen. Three years ago, Heyman was ready to walk away from the game after spending a season warming the bench at the star studded Sydney FC. She credits her former Central Coast Mariners captain and current Canberra United teammate Caitlin Cooper with enticing her back.
As is the way for most female footballers, it hasn’t been an easy road. Balancing work and training has been taxing on the mind and body.
“It’s been pretty hard. I went from training only twice a week to now training 5 times week."
“On my body it has been a strain and I had to give up a couple of my jobs just so I could train.”
Along the way Heyman credits the support of family and friends, in particular Canberra United teammate and Matildas midfielder Sally Shipard.
“She was pretty excited when she heard I go the call up.” she said “Sally has always just been the one to tell me that I could do it.”
One player who was missing was friend and Central Coast Mariners and Illawarra Stingrays strike partner Ashleigh Connor.
Connor, whose birthday it would have been today, died in a car accident on her way home from training on 20 July. Heyman, who has tattoo of Connor’s name and number on her arm, dedicated her goals to her left partner up front.
“She was always there with me.”
“I even asked her for advice before the game to make sure she was watching over me and to help me score a few goals.”
“She came through and she helped me out throughout the game.”
For Michelle Heyman, the monkey is off the back and the confidence has grown. While the next game is up against the recently crowned World Champions Japan, don’t look for her to be overawed.
“I have been a bit worried if I could do it or if playing the W-League was the highest stage I could get to.”
“As soon as I got on the field I was happy and it was just another game. If I just think that way, that it’s just playing another team, I will be okay.”