Taylor Ray and Mackenzie Hawkesby. image. Football Australia

Some regular faces are missing, but some names familiar to fans of the A-League Women have been called up b for the latest Matildas squad.

Some regular faces are missing, but some names familiar to fans of the A-League Women have been called up by Tony Gustavsson for the latest Matildas squad.

Australia will face Spain and Portugal in late June. Without big names like Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley rested after long European campaigns.

Gustavsson’s latest squad is drawn heavily from last season’s A-League Women. Although some have moved to Europe or the U.S.A since 12 of the 24 players selected spent the 2021/22 season at an A-League club.

Former Melbourne Victory stars Alex Chidiac and Courtney Nevin return to the squad after being called up to face New Zealand. Adelaide United’s star defender Matilda Mcnamara has been rewarded after a career-best campaign with the Reds.

McNamara could be joined in defence by Melbourne City’s Winonah Heatley. The 20-year-old was called up to the Dubai training camp before the Asian Cup. After playing a key role in City’s run to the preliminary final she has earned another chance at a first cap.

Larissa Crummer returns to The Matildas for the first time since the 2018 Asian Cup. Brisbane Roar’s top scorer will add pace and experience to Australia’s attack. Although she began the season slowly, Crummer ended the campaign with eight goals for the struggling Roar.

She is joined by Katrina Gorry who has since moved to Vittsjö GIK in Sweden after a brilliant season with Brisbane.

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Sydney FC dominates the squad. Six players selected played domestically last season. Remy Siemsen and Cortnee Vine return as emerging regulars. They are joined by Princess Ibini, Rachel Lowe, Taylor Ray, and Mackenzie Hawkesby from the premiership-winning side.

Defensive midfielder Ray was to be included for the Asian Cup but had to withdraw due to COVID. After two knee reconstructions since the age of 14, this call-up represents the culmination of years of struggle and excellence.

“That was a very devastating time to get COVID,” Ray told the media through Football Australia

“That was an opportunity I had been waiting such a long time for, so this time around I’m so excited for it.

“I think after the season Sydney FC had as a team and myself personally, I think I’m coming off a high note so I’m very pumped to go straight into the camp.”

Ray has also been selected for July’s AFF squad to represent Australia in the Philippines. She received news of her new status as an international footballer while on the way to the movies. She recalls that she was “shook” as she listened in silence that a long-awaited dream had arrived.

“I was just going through so many emotions because (with) some of the setbacks I had gone through…I was just like ‘wow I guess my time’s finally come.’”

“To do my second ACL, I guess that just hit home because for me I felt like I let my family down.

“I felt like a bit of a failure in a way. But I think those setbacks have actually really shaped me into such a stronger person mentally. On the field, it’s also changed the way I play as well.”

“I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life”

Ray was crucial to Sydney’s premiership charge last season. Alongside Lowe, Hawkesby, and Young Matildas star Sarah Hunter, they dominated the midfield in most contests.

Playing just ahead of Ray in Ante Juric’s lineup was Mackenzie Hawkesby. The attacking midfielder had a career-best season. In 15 games she scored five goals and had 10 assists.

When she received the call-up, she was more surprised than most Sydney FC fans would have been.

“I was actually quite shocked,” said Hawkesby

“Honestly, I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life.

“It means everything to me. As a footballer, you work so hard day in, day out and to get called up to the national team… I’m so humbled by it. I’m so thankful.

“It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do my whole life and to get a debut and to hopefully get on will be amazing.”

Hawkesby’s ability to score from midfield and impressive passing range make her an effective and versatile midfielder. She will need to be at her best against one of the growing powers in women’s football.

The challenge and opportunity is something she is eager to embrace.

“It’s something I’m looking forward to so much, Spain and Portugal, especially Spain.

“They’re a top top nation and they’re getting better and better and they’ve proven that.

“I want to come up against the best.

“It’s so exciting to challenge against top nations so that’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

“To make my debut against such a talented group is amazing”

Spain will draw heavily from the record-breaking Barcelona side. On the way to a 24-point lead at the top of the table, they scored 159 goals and conceded just 11.

Ray is far from worried. At this point, she is just excited to walk onto the park and is doing everything right to prepare.

“The Matildas is something I wanted to do since I was a younger girl playing in Townsville,” she said.

“This is something I’m really looking forward to, it’s made me realise the goals I want to achieve in my life on and off the pitch.

“Everything I’ve gone through in my career is just going to make myself proud of myself and proud for my family.

“The sacrifices they’ve made to even move to Sydney in the first place, it all comes down to one moment and one feeling that I get when I step onto that field.

“To make my debut against such a talented group is amazing and with some of my best mates also going, what’s a better feeling than that?”

She pauses for a moment, then remembers one more thing to look forward to.

“And it’s summer over there, it’s not cold so I can’t wait for that.”

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