Cannon Clough joins Brisbane Roar for the 2021/22 A-League Women season. (Photo: Brisbane Roar/Kyoko Kurihara)

When Cannon Clough injured her ankle in front of new coach Garrath McPherson in the middle of the scouting process, she feared the worst for the prospects of her A-League career.

New Brisbane Roar signing Cannon Clough nearly lost her best chance at making it to the elite level due to an untimely ankle injury.

The Lions FC captain had been on the radar of the club since she arrived in Queensland after coming through the college system in the USA.

A North Carolina native, she made communication with the NPLW club through a friend of a friend in Fortuna Hjorring goalkeeper Adelaide Gay. Knocked back initially and trying her hand at assistant coaching at Wofford College, she would make her way to the land down under at the start of 2019.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Clough has continued to grow her game as one of the NPL’s premier defenders. She was selected in the All-Stars team that took down the Roar earlier this year.

Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, Clough feared that injuring herself in front of new Roar coach Garrath McPherson spelled the end of her chance at A-League level.

“I copped an ankle injury in our game against QAS (Queensland Academy of Sport),” Clough said.

“It was a mid-week game, and that was a tough one.

“The injury happened in front of Garrath and other coaches watching and I was like ‘there it goes’, because I hadn’t been signed yet. I think a few days later, the coaches were just checking in and [Garrath] was like ‘how’s the ankle’, concerned.”

Roar bolster defence with Cannon Clough signing | Brisbane Roar FC
Clough signed with the Brisbane Roar in September. (Photo: Brisbane Roar)

It was a setback that thankfully wouldn’t last. After a steady month of rehab, Clough returned to captain the Lions against Capalaba FC, securing the 3-0 victory and the top of the table.

All her worries were put to rest once she received that phone call not long after beginning her time on the sidelines.

“I’d been talking to coach [Garrath McPherson] a bit since they named him the coach,” Clough said.

“He’s a super transparent, upfront guy. He was kind of like ‘I’ve seen you’, and there were different chats strategy wise about how they’re doing their signings.

“I was really excited, because that means I don’t have to move. I feel like I’m in a good spot up here at the moment, especially with the whole Queensland thing it feels like it all came together.

“It was kind of that feeling of ‘finally’, a bit of relief almost, just to tick that box and get that opportunity to grow.”

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The rise through the ranks of the NPL has been a daunting journey for Clough. She initially moved to Queensland barely knowing anyone, but found a quick ally.

Fellow American Shea Connors made the switch from the Logan Lightning to Lions FC in the 2021 season. Clough admits she’s shared a few moments of longing with her countrywoman.

Connors also signed with the Roar, a familiar face to have at training and when travelling around the country.

“[We have] that American connection, and knowing what it’s like to move over here to play soccer,” Clough said.

“Those little homesick moments, she’s probably the girl I share those with. I think it’ll be cool to continue the season with her, because we don’t really have a break!”

Connors has been a pillar of the Lions attacking end in the seemingly never-ending 2021 season. She’s scored a nearly unmatched 39 goals in 24 games, with a grand final still to come.

With Australia beginning to open up again to vaccinated travellers from interstate and overseas, Clough is hopeful that her family will be able to reunite and watch her A-League debut come the season start on December 3.

While there’s no guarantee, she says they’re aiming to touch down on the sunny Queensland shores as soon as possible.

Essentially stuck in Australia with a decision to stay or go, making it the top level has made the sacrifices all the more worth it.

“I’m always sending anything I hear or read to my family like ‘maybe you guys can get over here’,” Clough said.

“I have a super supportive family, and Shae does also. We’re just counting down the days until we can get our families over here to come see a game and come see our lives over here.

“That was one of the coolest parts of signing for me. I’ve been so close the past couple of years but it hasn’t happened.

“I’ve kind of gotten to the point where I really miss my family, do I keep going for this? Now it’s happening, so hopefully the next step is getting to see the family.

“There’s a lot of people I haven’t seen in a couple of years, it’s been over two years since I’ve seen my family. It’ll be a good reunion whether they come here or I go there.”

The All-Star Roar

With a 15-woman strong squad signed for the 2021/22 A-League Women season, the Roar seem to developing a clear strategy.

New Roar coach Garrath McPherson appears intent to bring together a squad comprised of Queensland’s best, truly embracing the role as the state’s only team.

Nearly all of the signings, new and old, have some sort of link to the Sunshine State.

Clough and Connors are teammates at the Lions, as is Mariel Hecher. The re-signed Anna Margraf has been spending her off-season with Capalaba FC, as has Holly McQueen with the QAS.

Jamilla Rankin joined the Roar through the QAS pathway, while Georgie Worth and Larissa Crummer grew up playing junior football in the state.

Hollie Palmer (Melbourne City) and Ayesha Norrie (Perth Glory/Gold Coast United) return to their home state and the Roar from elsewhere. Japanese midfielder Rie Kitano joins after spending time at Gold Coast United and Souths United.

Mia Bailey (QAS), Lanni McDougall (Moreton Bay United), Meaghan McElligott (Gold Coast United/Souths United/Logan Lightning) and Jessie Rasschaert (Gold Coast United) all also join from the NPL Queensland pathway.

Having played with and against the majority of her teammates already, Clough has a good view of what the Roar squad may shape up to look like this season.

“Roar is shaping up to be a bit like [an all-star team],” she said.

“You can be a good player in the NPL, but if your resume doesn’t say you played in the NWSL or played overseas at a super high level already, then sometimes you don’t get a second look.

“Now with everything’s that happened, it’s opened up a bit of an opportunity to let us get our shot and see what we do with it. I think it’ll be a bit of an all-star season I hope!”

Brisbane opens its A-League Women season on December 4 against Perth Glory.

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