Australian COVID-19 quarantine restrictions have led to some A-Leagues contracted Socceroos and Matildas remaining abroad instead of coming home after international duty. They have turned to European clubs to keep training.
Australia's national team players are used to long journeys. Playing in the Asian Football Confederation by its nature requires a lot of flying and often time away from home for both A-Leagues and foreign based players. COVID-19 restrictions though have brought on a new level in many of these journeys.
A-Leagues players' self imposed exiles
- Six A-Leagues based Socceroos and Matildas have remained abroad to avoid quarantine.
- They have joined clubs in Scotland, England and Denmark to remain fit.
- The experience has led to some being open to more foreign experiences.
Six A-Leagues based players who have chosen to continue to represent the Socceroos and Matildas ahead of the upcoming domestic season have in turn chosen to remain abroad between international breaks in order to avoid the two week quarantines they would encounter should they return back home.
Rhyan Grant, Emma Checker, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Courtney Nevin, Jamilla Rankin and Remy Siemsen have all remained abroad between international breaks over the last months. To keep fit and match sharp though they have trained with European clubs during their self imposed exiled.
Grant chose to do so between the Socceroos' September and October international breaks. The right back, who has spent his entire career with Sydney FC, joined Scottish side Hibernian for nearly a month.
Speaking to Newscorp about the experience, and how his club and country's respective staffs kept a tab on him, the right-back said: “I’ve been training with the first team and it’s been good, and something a little bit different for me.
“I’ve been wearing a GPS vest and unit which tracks everything that I do during training and then Hibs pass all those results to the Socceroos and Sydney coaching staff.
”If I need any more on top of that, they’ll let [Hibs] know and I’ll do some extra, or just let me know and I’ll do extras to make sure I’m in the best condition I can be.
“I’m not sure if I’ll be fitter than ever, but I’ll be ready to play a few games.”
Grant is contacted with Sydney FC until the end of the 2021-22 season. The club have confirmed to FTBL that he will rejoin the team for preseason.
Checker for her part joined Reading FC after the Republic of Ireland matches. Her agent Damir Kulas told FTBL:
"Had Emma departed for Australia at the conclusion of the Ireland camp and friendly, she would've been required to undergo two weeks of hotel quarantine.
"In the interim, this is the best way for her to maintain her fitness and performance levels ahead of the next camp and friendly matches later this month, which she hopes to get selected for."
Prior to the Irish friendly she had been playing in Iceland for Selfoss FC in the Icelandic Úrvalsdeild. Checker ended up playing ever single minute of her club's 2021 season. She will next be playing in the A-League Women with Melbourne City whom she signed a two-year contract with last August.
Meanwhile in Denmark Cooney-Cross, Nevin, Siemsen and Rankin have temporarily joined Fortuna Hjørring for the last month. The four Australians did not necessarily feel out of place as the club already has five other Australians.
Clare Wheeler, Angela Beard, Alexandra Huynh and Indian-Paige Riley are all players with the Elitedivisionen side as well as assistant coach Stephen Neligan. According to the club the impact of the four additional Aussies has been positive.
Posting on their instagram last Friday about the experience of hosting the four Matildas, Hjørring stated:
"The Australians have raised the bar for training.
"On Saturday afternoon, Fortuna Hjørring will visit FC Nordsjælland in Gjensidige Kvindeliga.
"The prelude to the match has been really good and intensive on the training ground, where four Australian national team players, who temporarily live in Hjørring, have helped to raise the level.
"There are a total of 9 Australians on the pitch at the moment, with 8 players and assistant coach, Stephen Neligan, being complemented by the rest of the squad."
Discussing of her experience in Denmark, Seimsen is quoted by her club Sydney FC as saying:
“I am having a great time in Denmark, we are training twice a day most days with gym and lots of technical work in extra sessions at their facility here.
“It’s been fun living with three other Matildas and sharing the cooking and whole experience.
“We catch up with other Australian based girls at training which is nice and we have been riding bikes into town and enjoying the Danish menu every couple of days.
“I’m really enjoying the football focus and keeping really fit in readiness for the start of the A-League Women’s season.”
As all five Matildas have been named for the upcoming Brazil friendlies. The "expats" are now headed home. After the international break, Cooney-Cross and Nevin will then rejoin Melbourne Victory. Rankin is headed to Brisbane Roar while Siemsen will return to Sydney alongside Grant.
As COVID-19 restrictions are eased and quarantine arrivals are looking to be shortened or eliminated, it is unlikely that such arrangements of self imposed exiles and foreign club training will exist in the future.
They have served though as a good way for players to avoid quarantine, remain fit and as an eye opener. In the same interview mentioned above with Newscorp, Grant did say that the experience left him more open to future possibilities abroad:
“All in all it’s been really good just to experience something different, and you never know: in the future, if something was to happen, I’d be a little bit more open to it now that I’ve experienced something a little bit different.”
For now all six Socceroos and Matildas will be playing in the upcoming A-Leagues. Grant starts his season with Sydney FC men on Saturday, November 20, 2021. Checker, Cooney-Cross, Nevin, Rankin and Siemsen start their A-League Women's campaigns the first weekend of December.
The full A-League schedules can be found using this link.