05/03/2024
Heyman became the first A-League Women's player to score 100 goals earlier this season. PHOTO: Canberra United - Twitter

Heyman became the first A-League Women's player to score 100 goals earlier this season. PHOTO: Canberra United - Twitter

After some time away, Michelle Heyman is back in a Matildas squad, marking the end of a hard-fought journey back into the national team.

Picked in the 23-player squad to take on Uzbekistan in the final round of Olympic qualification, Heyman says she’s as excited as ever to be selected to play for the Tillies.

“It’s a great feeling … it’s changed my life. I feel like a kid again and I just can’t wait to be back with the team to help, give a little of me to show them that I’ve still got this,” she said.

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Fighting hard for another chance

Reflecting on her retirement from international football in 2019, Heyman says that in her mind it was never a permanent decision, but a stigma around mental health issues at the time made her feel like she didn’t have another option.

“I think the year that I retired, I really needed a break. Back then in 2019, you couldn’t really use the word mental health, you had to just retire and just step away,” she said.

“I would have loved to be like, I need a year off, just to reboot and look after myself.

“I needed that break, I needed time to be a human, not a robot.”

When Heyman returned to Canberra United for the 2020/21 A-League Women’s season, scoring 10 goals in 12 games, the desire to return to the Matildas setup started to build up.

“I came back into the A-League and played an incredible season, won the Julie Dolan award, scored multiple goals, loved every minute of it,” she said.

“I just love football so much that it sparked that fire in my belly and since 2020 I’ve been fighting to get back in this squad.”

Despite being 35 years of age, Heyman says that over the past six years, she’s put a lot of work into ensuring that her body is up to the task of competing at the highest level,

A fact that is proven by her position atop the current A-League Women’s golden boot race.

“As you get older, you realise how much you have to do with the recovery side of things with your body,” she said.

“I spend a lot of time making sure that I’m doing everything possible so that I’m in the best form that I can be.

“A lot of time in ice baths, stretching, rolling, saunaing, making sure that I’m physically fit to perform at the best of my ability.”

Olympic Dream

The Olympic Games hold a special place in Heyman’s heart, the rings tattooed on her arm mark a dream that she got to fulfill in 2016.

But 8 years on from that quarter-final defeat to Brazil, Heyman is eyeing up another chance to live out that fantasy in Paris.

“My biggest goal was to go to the Olympics, ever since I was a little kid that was a dream of mine”, she said.

“I’m very grateful to have this opportunity right now to prove to everyone that I can do this.

“It would mean the world to me to be back in an Olympic team.”

Before that, Heyman will have to bring her goalscoring form to the final round of qualification, a two-legged tie against Uzbekistan, with the loser falling agonisingly close of the Games in July.

The first leg will be played on Saturday the 24th of February before the return leg on the 28th in front of a sold-out Docklands Stadium in Melbourne.

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