‘Those are pretty special’: Getting to know City’s Matildas gem

Holly McNamara is one of the brightest talents coming through our Liberty A-League. Rachel Bach spent some time away from the pitch with the 19-year-old, to get to know the breakthrough Matildas star. All images in this piece are by Rachel Bach. Search @bythewhiteline on social media.

“I never expected this. Not at all.” 

A few months ago, Holly McNamara was living at home, studying and working. 

She shakes her head in disbelief. “I’m now playing football full-time.” 

It hasn’t quite sunk in yet for the 19-year-old. 

It’s a breezy night in Melbourne, and we’re sitting at a table overlooking the beach. The sun sets behind Holly, who’s softly spoken at first. By the end of our conversation she’s revealed to be a thoughtful and funny person, who shows maturity beyond her years. 

Photo by Rachel Bach (@bythewhiteline)

Growing up in Sydney, Holly assumed she’d start her career there. 

“I thought I would for sure stay in Sydney,” she says.  

“Play for Sydney.” 

However, when an offer came from Melbourne City last year, she didn’t hesitate and signed. 

She was injury-free, after years of setbacks – an ACL followed by a stress fracture – that took away opportunities in the Liberty A-League. Holly was ready to make her debut. 

“I’d only heard good things [about Melbourne City],” she adds. “You think of the big names that have been here, and then winning all those games, and championships.” 

On the day that Sydney’s lockdown ended last year, she found herself driving to Melbourne for pre-season. Inside the car was City midfielder Rhianna Pollicina. 

“We met each other for the first time when we were driving down here.”

Their friendship has developed as they explore Melbourne together. With all the recent – and unexpected – changes to Holly’s life, their bond has helped her adjust. 

Whilst moving to a new city – away from family – for the first time could have had an impact on her football, Holly has thrived at Melbourne City. Her ability to attack with both skill and speed is incredibly impressive, and her form in the league resulted in a Matildas debut in January. Unsurprisingly, interest in the young attacker continues to grow. 

“You hear a lot, but you’ve just got to tune it out,” she explains. 

A big task, at 19 years old. 

Photo by Rachel Bach (@bythewhiteline)

But Holly is level-headed, and shows great humility.

When talking about her future, she says ‘hopefully’ and ‘fingers crossed’ often – she’s not assuming anything, and there’s no air of entitlement. 

Photo by Rachel Bach (@bythewhiteline)
Photo by Rachel Bach (@bythewhiteline)
Photo by Rachel Bach (@bythewhiteline)

As we walk along the beach, Holly stops to pick up shells that catch her eye. She tells me that she brought some home from Dubai – the training camp where she secured her spot in the Matildas Asian Cup squad. 

“I didn’t bring much home from camp. Some shells, oh and my jerseys. Those are pretty special, I’ll keep them for a while.”

Photo by Rachel Bach (@bythewhiteline)

Whilst the memories of her first national team camp are still fresh, she’s very much focused on the A-League. “We’ve won quite a bit now, so I think we’re doing pretty well.”

This weekend, City face ladder leaders Sydney FC in a top of the table clash. Last time the teams met, Holly was away with the Matildas. She’s looking forward to taking on the team she thought she would end up playing for. 

Holly has made a name for herself, and quickly, but there’s no rush to make any decisions. The people Holly surrounds herself with remind her of that. 

“Everyone’s saying: just play.” It might sound simple, but it takes a certain level of maturity to follow that advice. With Holly, there’s no shortage of that.

Photo by Rachel Bach (@bythewhiteline)
Photo by Rachel Bach (@bythewhiteline)

Holly had played just six A-League games before debuting for the Matildas at the Asian Cup in January. With four goals and three assists in the league so far, it’s been quite the start to her professional career.

Photo by Rachel Bach (@bythewhiteline)

Her path to the league and the national team hasn’t been straightforward, and it hasn’t been what she expected. Yet when she talks about her journey, you understand why she’s had success despite the challenges she faced.

It comes down to the resilient, humble and diligent person that is Holly McNamara.