Ambitious Bryleeh Henry shooting for the stars

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Bryleeh Henry, who was unexpectedly called up to the Matildas squad for friendlies against Brazil, exemplifies the chances that a home Women’s World Cup presents.

“Playing for the Matildas is amazing. I didn’t expect it to become a reality as quick as it did,” said Henry.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has risen for the Penrith local to make her international debut in front of her home crowd and set her sights on larger things to come.

“Representing Australia in the 2023 World Cup is in my sights. I’m just trying to make the most of the opportunities I have now and improve in the A-League,” she said.

Henry, 18, was unexpectedly called up to the team for recent matches against the Selecao. She was the 56th player to be invited to national camp in 2021 and the 16th to win the honour for the first time.

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“My goal over the next year is to put myself in places where I can get the most experience so that I could potential play in the World Cup team,” she said.

Born and raised in Sydney’s west, Henry began her career as a youth with local club Penrith FC and on the futsal field before joining local NPLW powerhouse Blacktown Spartans FC.

“I started playing football when I was around nine. I just started playing because a bunch of my friends played so I joined for some fun,” she said.

Henry quickly established herself after working her way into NSW’s top programme at the age of 15. After scoring two goals in 16 games in her debut season of senior football in 2019, the COVID-interrupted 2020 campaign saw her bag seven goals from 10 games.

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Playing for a club that is “basically her backyard”, has given Henry a passion for the red and black that no other side could.

“It means the world to me to play for Western Sydney,” Henry said.

“To put that jersey on and make my family and friends proud is indescribable.

“It’s been amazing, it’s my home club. It’s a team that I’ve followed since childhood. The culture is amazing, it’s a family away from home.

“There’s just a good vibe off the field. Everyone has some banter, everyone gets each other, everyone is there for each other rather than competitiveness. It helps immensely.”

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When club legend and former Matilda Catherine Canulli stepped up to coach this season’s A-League Women’s team, many including Henry were excited for her to pass on her wisdom.

“For anyone going into a coaching role is massive,” Henry said.

“Catherine Canulli being a former Matilda and Western Sydney player allows us to connect with her so much more than any other coach. Also her being a female is so approachable as she passes on her experiences. Her coaching us has exceeded my expectations.”

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However, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for the Wanderers this season as a rough start means they are now desperately chasing a place in the top four. Henry, nonetheless, is still optimistic her team can pull it together.

“It has been tough. No one wants to start off the way we have,” she said

“It’s not all bad though, we’ve had some good patches of football, but we’ve just been unlucky or not clinical enough.

“We’re still aiming for finals. It’s still achievable.”

Feature image: Steve Christo

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Paloma Darjani
Paloma Darjani
Covering the Western Sydney Wanderers for the 2021/22 season. Studying a Bachelor of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney.

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