How Winonah Heatley’s changed mindset led her to a Matildas call-up

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Melbourne City’s Winonah Heatley has impressed plenty with her performances this season, including the Matildas’ head coach, and she believes a more mature mindset has been the key to it all.

The 20-year-old has started in all but one of City’s games this A-League Women’s season, where she has shined in defence alongside the likes of Emma Checker and Tori Tumeth.

She has been a key contributor to a City defence that has let in just nine goals in ten games, with only Sydney FC conceding fewer this season.

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Heatley had a good reason for missing City’s game against Adelaide United – national duties. The young defender missed the fixture as she was called up by Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson to the extended squad ahead of the Asian Cup.

Although she did not make the final cut, Heatley’s call-up was well-deserved following a string of impressive performances at club level.

“Being called into the pre-camp Asian Cup squad was a massive honour,” she said.

“I was just happy to get the experience under my belt of being surrounded by quality players.

“It has given me more incentive to try and get better and get back into that environment.”

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Heatley has identified the change in her game development that has led to her successful rise.

She said a new and improved mentality made it easier to accept the inevitable disappointments in football, and instead focus on her personal development.

When asked whether she was still targeting a place in the Matildas squad for the 2023 World Cup, Heatley offered a mature perspective.

“I have changed my mindset to focus more on improving so that I can feel like I really deserve to be there,” she said.

“Being at the World Cup is still a huge goal of mine, but now I am focusing more on improving as a footballer.

“I just want to make sure I am in the best position possible to give myself the best chance.”

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Heatley’s focus on her own growth as a footballer will hopefully allow her to overcome the obstacles and unpredictability of professional football.

The City defender outlined the steps she needed to take to earn a spot back in the national team set-up.

“The feedback from them [the Matildas camp] is to always be playing in the best environment for yourself,” Heatley said.

“The best environment for me right now has been to come back home and wait for a better opportunity overseas.

“You play your best football when you are happy, and for me, that is at City right now.”

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Heatley said the regular game time she had earnt at City had accelerated her development in recent months.

Last year Heatley had a brief stint playing in Sweden, however, she jumped at the opportunity to return to Australia when Rado Vidosic came calling.

She said returning to the ALW was the right career move. And it is difficult to argue, as she has clearly taken her game to new levels.

The defender’s decision to focus less on the specifics of tournaments or squads, and instead occupy herself with personal improvement is a prudent adaptation to the precarious nature of football during an ongoing pandemic.

Even with a more sustainable mindset, however, Heatley’s ambition remains apparent.

“My next step is definitely to head back overseas,” she said.

“Melbourne City is the right thing for me right now, but it’s also important to get more experience playing in unfamiliar environments and challenging myself in that way.”

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Considering the ongoing search for the next generation of Matildas to build the squad’s depth, perhaps Heatley’s patience will be rewarded with a more substantive role in the national team leading up to next year’s World Cup.

Even if it does not, Heatley will be hoping that a mantra of personal improvement will allow her to remain focused as she awaits her time for another overseas stint.

Feature Image Credit: Melbourne City FC

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Oscar Rutherford
Sports tragic studying Law/Arts at Monash University. Second-best paid Oscar working in football who has been to China.

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