14/04/2024

Michelle Heyman appearing in the first leg against Uzbekistan. (Photo: Football Australia/Provided)

As a memory of being selected as part of the Matildas squad for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Michelle Heyman chose to ink a tattoo with the famous five interlocking rings. Now, room must be made for another as she helped guide Australia to Olympic Qualification ahead of Paris.

Unlike eight years ago, Heyman’s recent call-up for the ties against Uzbekistan came as a surprise considering retirement was on the horizon, if it wasn’t for Sam Kerr’s unfortunate ACL injury and sublime Liberty A-League form.

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The 35-year-old proved to herself, over the past few days that she still has what it takes on the international scene, having scored an astonishing four goals last night along with a sole goal in Tashkent en route to a comfortable pair of victories.

Speaking after the match at a sell-out Marvel Stadium, Heyman shared what was going through her mind in the first half and the importance of the people around her.

“When I looked at Tony [Gustavsson] after the third [goal], he was smiling and I think I even said, ‘I’ve got five in me’,” said the Canberra United star forward.

“The support I get from Tony and the staff and the team has just been incredible. It allows me to play, have fun, and be free because I think as a forward you don’t want to have so many restrictions on yourself.

“You just want to be able to get out there and do what you do best and I’m finding my feet and finding myself in good positions.”

In 2019, the 63-time capped Matilda required a break from football – and it wasn’t until the following year in the Liberty A-League that she began to love the game again truly.

Heyman touched on the emotions that she has experienced since receiving the recent call-up from Gustavsson.

“It’s been a very emotional roller coaster,” she said.

“I’ve been pushing so hard to try and get back into this squad, and as soon as I got the email to say that you’re back in, I’m not letting it go.

“I’m going to do everything that I can, work as hard as possible, and bring that positive energy that I can bring into a team. That’s what I’ve been trying my hardest to do.

“It’s just been a wonderful journey to get out there and do what I do best. (I’m) feeling very happy and it was super nice to do it in Australia in front of an incredible crowd.

“I think that’s the most I’ve ever scored in a game for Australia, so to come back and do it after a big rest has just been an incredible and emotional journey.”

The past two outings have delivered the perfect audition for Heyman to demonstrate to the coaching staff that she is more than capable of filling the void left behind by injured superstar Sam Kerr.

Heyman admitted that they are two completely different players and she is able to contribute her own strengths to the squad.

“It’s always a lot of fun to, try and be like Sam, but we’re very different players and she’s just quality,” Heyman said. “I’m proud of everything that she’s achieved in her journey so far.”

“I’ve watched her grow up since she was a 16-year-old kid coming into the league and destroying everyone. I aspire to be like her (and) we’re very similar in certain ways. But I play my own game as well and I think I can bring some things that are quite different to what Sam brings.

Now officially qualified for the Paris Olympics – the best nations in the world will converge on the French capital and vie for an elusive medal.

As the competition will undoubtedly prove a sterner challenge for the Matildas, Heyman remains confident that she has the quality to make a significant impact.

“I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge for myself is to just see where I’m at compared to the best,” she said. “Because coming out there, I knew what they could bring and I knew exactly what I had to do to be successful.

“But I do believe in my ability, and I know how hard I’ve been pushing myself to get here, but I’m not stopping. I’m going to continue to push even harder for Canberra United and just keep working on my fitness, my speed, do everything that I can do to be one of those 16 field players.”

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