Heyman unhappy with lack of A-Leagues talent in Matildas squad

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In the aftermath of Australia’s quarter-final exit from the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, fans, officials and players have all been attempting to identify what went wrong.

For a team that is ranked 11th in the world and just finished fourth at the Olympics, something mustn’t be right to not even make the final four of the continental competition.

For ex-Matilda and current Canberra United striker Michelle Heyman, the underutilisation of experienced A-League Women’s (ALW) players is one of the key issues plaguing the current national team system.

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The 61-match veteran believes that whilst it is good that young ALW players are being afforded the opportunity, players who have earned their spot through sustained domestic performances have not been given the chance to shine on the international stage.

“I think a lot of players are missing out who potentially should be in there just because they’re a little bit older, and not young and fresh. We are missing the 23 to 26-year-olds in that team,” she said.

“We have some really quality players here in the A-League Women’s and they aren’t even getting a look in. They’re not getting the shot to be a part of the Matildas which is a little frustrating.”

Out of the most recent Asian Cup squad, just six of the 23 selected currently play in the ALW competition.

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Of those, just two are over the age of 22, with one of those being Emily van Egmond, who herself is on loan and already an established star.

Whilst it is a positive that many of the squad are testing themselves against the best in Europe, this can lead to those who have chosen to stay in Australia not getting the attention from the national set-up that they deserve.

For Heyman, the fact that current coach Tony Gustavsson has rarely seen ALW matches live is a real issue, and one that needs to be addressed quickly.

“Hopefully Tony comes back to Australia and starts to watch some games and be there in person to actually scout players,” she said.

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“I think having a national team coach in Australia might actually help to see what players he’s actually missing out on. There is a handful coming through who just aren’t getting the opportunity.”

With the mass exodus of Matildas players from the ALW over the past few seasons due to the increase of lucrative European contracts, it has meant that the need to watch Australia’s domestic competition to view current squad members has lessened.

Whilst this is understandable, it is vital that those potential players that opt to play in Australia don’t slip through the cracks.

The Canberra striker understands the importance of Gustavsson watching his European stars, but by not watching ALW matches live she feels that he is not properly utilising quality players.

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“What you’re really missing out on is all of the girls based in Australia who are putting in the hard work, who are trying their hardest to be selected for the Matildas,” she said.

“It’s a bit difficult if you’re not having your national team coach there in the stands watching you. Everyone who has been a part of the national team has always come out and watched the W-League, so I think that it is something that we are missing out on.”

The need for regular training camps for Australian based players is also something that Heyman sees as essential, and she feels it could be a simple solution to the above problem.

The step up from domestic football to the international level is large, and by giving fringe players the opportunity to compete in this set up it allows them to both prove themselves and be more comfortable in that type of high-performance environment.

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“I still don’t understand why there hasn’t been any national team camps during this season,” she said.

“Most of the girls are here, they do have the assistant coach and all that within Australia. So why aren’t we running more programs for the Australian based players to train together to just see that type of environment?”

It is clear that something just wasn’t right inside the Australian camp during this Asian Cup. They had a team full of superstars and a talented coach, yet they unfortunately crumbled at the first major hurdle.

For Heyman the reality is simple, especially with a home World Cup just over a year away.

“We can’t go into a World Cup the same way we just went into that tournament,” she said.

Feature Image Credit: Mike Owen

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William Makepeace
Current Intern covering Canberra United. Sports Media student at University of Canberra who lives and breathes Football

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