As Caitlin Foord heads to her third FIFA Women's World Cup in France next month, she recalls her time as a mischievous teenager at her maiden tournament.
It was Germany 2011 and at just 16, the Shellharbour native was headed to her first World Cup. Foord was part of a group of teenagers in the 23-player squad under then Matildas coach Tom Sermanni.
Her friends Sam Kerr along with Emily van Egmond and Teigen Allen were also in Germany and half a world away from their home at one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
Reflecting on that time, Foord spoke to her NWSL club Portland Thorns in their Les Portraits series about the mischieve she got up to but also how 2011 changed her football journey.
“We had our little group,” she said.
“We would be out finding new things and just not trying to get into trouble but normally we'd find ourselves in a little bit of trouble, just wanting to explore and being 16 in a different country, it was always fun to get out and try to find new things.”
There was one occasion when the Matildas were doing a recovery session at a theme park where there were rides and more importantly diving boards. Kerr and Foord were really into doing backflips at the time so decided to climb to the top diving board and do some backflips.
“We had already done a backflip and were going up to do it again and we'd just seen our physio screaming from the other side and yelling at us to get down. And as she was coming closer, as she was coming screaming, we just did get a backflip off," Foord said.
“We did find ourselves in a lot of trouble, because we were at a World Cup and could have got injured, easily but being that age, we thought we were unstoppable and could do anything.”
In Germany, Foord won Best Young Player and claimed the same honour from the AFC later that year before she was named her confederation’s Women's Player of the Year in 2016. She would learn about the honour while holidaying in Croatia but instead of flying back to accept her award in person, Foord stayed where she was.
“I found out over Facebook and I was like, ‘Cool.’ (I) just wanted to go back out and enjoy my holiday in Croatia,” she said.
However, while she has different feelings about the situation, that's a blessing about being young, you take things as they come and enjoy the moment. For Foord, the whole World Cup was a moment which would change her footballing pathway.
The Matildas, despite their youthfulness, made their second-straight quarterfinal with Foord emerging as the team’s most celebrated young talent.
“[The attention] was just something that came with how I was going, and it wasn’t something that I was playing for,” she said.
“It was just a reward that I didn’t really realize how big it was until a couple of years later when I look back and I think, wow, that was really a cool thing to win."
Part of Foord's evolution as a player was her transformation into a defender. After surgery on her broken collarbone, the then-21-year-old, who would at time avoid gym work, was forced to spend in the weight room recovering from her injury changed her physical profile.
While she occasionally plays in the backline, her power sees her explode into space over short distances in the way strikers need to seek out the ball. It was a learning experience for Foord not only for her 2016 injury but the foot injury that would cost her half of 2018.
“The little things that I probably wouldn't do before, or the kind of annoying things, they are important,” she said.
“That’s just come with sitting out from the game. It makes you cherish those moments a lot more when you are back out playing because there is nothing worse than having to sit on the sideline and having to watch.”
Since her lisfranc injury, Foord has only grown. Against Chile in November, she recorded her first international hat-trick before scoring 10 goals during the recent W-League season and finished second on the Golden Boot race.
Heading into France though it's another step in the journey in the making of Caitlin Foord.
She has high hopes for the Matildas chances in France as well.
“We 100 per cent think we can win,” she said.
“Last World Cup we went thinking we could win, as well but I've said a couple of times now that going into Canada, we knew we could, but I think the belief was missing within the team.
“Four years round, we think we can win, and the belief is there that we can win. We just know if we are playing at our best as individuals and as a team, we can beat anyone.”