Retired Matildas striker and 2009 Julie Dolan medalist Michelle Heyman has hinted at returning to the W-League next season, asking her Facebook followers, “hands up if I should make a come back to the W-League??”
She followed this up days later with the slightly less cryptic, “Is it time to put the boots back on #CUingreen” indicating that Canberra is her likely destination.
Heyman retired from the Matildas prior to the 2019 World Cup and did not feature for a W-League team in the 2019/20 season, but her posts have generated excitement amongst W-League fans who have become accustomed to players departing in recent months.
A year is a long time in football, but Heyman is no stranger to returning to the game after long absences, she missed nine months after a horrible injury in 2016 when she snapped all of her ankle ligaments but if she is to return, what will the now 32 year old striker bring to a side?
Proven ability around goal
Heyman is Canberra United’s all time leading scorer with an incredible 56 goals in 93 appearances between 2010 and 2018, at her best she is a mobile, skillful forward, with an ability to play in other attackers or finish the move herself.
At the age of 32 she may not have the pace to get behind defenders as easily or as often as in her peak years, but in her last season at Adelaide, she displayed some moments of brilliant skill, including calmly dummying a pass in the 97th minute for Georgia Campagnale to equalise against Melbourne City.
At 180cm she will be a threat from set pieces and if her instincts around goal remain she could contribute a lot to a Canberra side that scored 13 times last season. With a number of renowned W-League defenders moving to European clubs and the possibility of overseas signing still very much in limbo due to Covid19, Heyman could very well take advantage of her experience and guile around goal to make a big impact, even off the bench.
Canberra bid farewell to co captain and Matildas defender Karly Roestbakken a season after star player Ellie Carpenter departed, potentially creating a need for on and off field leadership in the club. Michelle Heyman has a wealth of experience and knowledge that any club would be foolish to ignore. A fixture in Matildas squads for almost nine years, Heyman featured for The Matildas in the unsurpassed 2015 World Cup, finished as a runner up in the 2014 Asian Cup and scored twice in the 2016 Olympics in the thumping 6-1 win over Zimbabwe.
There are few players with her experience and ability available for W-League recruiters and although most sides will be looking to invest in young players, developing those players will be a lot easier with a player who has 61 international caps along side them.
The exodus of Australia’s best and most promising football talent to Europe has been exciting for the sport but also concerning for the W-League from a purely marketing perspective.
While there remains a wealth of talent available in the lower levels and younger players may be excited to take on larger responsibility on game day, a big name signing is just what the W-League needs to attract more fans. Heyman is a big name in women’s football, she was appearing regularly in Foxtel’s football coverage and has a significant social media following.
She comes with a reputation of goals and can provide moments of the sort of individual skill that fans pay to see and casual observers delight in sharing online.
Michelle Heyman has had a long career and she worked hard to return from her injury. Sporting history is littered with cautionary comeback tales but if Heyman still has half the magic that exists in our memories she could bring a lot of value to next season’s W-League, a player like her has earned the chance.