Matildas boss’ ‘amazing’ A-Leagues hat tip: ‘We have seen the beginning of Australian football’

A-Leagues icon Michelle Heyman reflects on Canberra United's role in her fairytale Matildas renaissance.

Michelle Heyman could not wipe the smile off her face after scoring four first-half goals for the Matildas on Wednesday. The A-Leagues icon also thanked Canberra United for their role in her long-awaited return to international football.

Heyman produced a merciless performance in front of a sell-out crowd of more than 54,000 fans in Melbourne, where the Matildas crushed Uzbekistan 10-0 to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games 13-0 on aggregate.

The 35-year-old striker had spent six years away from the Matildas squad before earning a recall for the two-legged playoff and she came off the bench to score in the opening match.

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Then, the Canberra star needed just 12 minutes to complete her hat-trick at Marvel Stadium and she had a message for the Liberty A-League side and her club teammates post-match.

“That club helped me with my career from day one to where I am today,” Heyman told reporters as Canberra prepare to visit Western United on Friday. “They allow me to be the best player I can be.

“At the moment, I am the leader with the team. It’s such a nicer feeling to be a mentor and help grow that team because it’s been such a special part of my journey to get me to be in the Matildas. Hats off to them for everything they do.

“For myself, it’s going to be so positive going back into Canberra for the girls to reach for their dreams and chase what they want.

“A lot of people told me I couldn’t do it, you’re too old. It’s really nice to be able to show people that it doesn’t matter how old you are, if you love the game and push yourself, you can achieve anything.”

As Heyman left the stage at the end of her post-match media duties, Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson said: “Not just a world-class goalscorer, but a world-class communicator as well. A future coach.”

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Gustavsson then went on to discuss Heyman’s performance and a “question mark” moving forward.

“Heyman’s finishing – that’s not just because the opposition is what it is, it’s because she is such a good finisher,” said the Swede. “That technique to finish, it’s just the quality.

“There is no question she can bring that against top international ranked teams. Can she bring the pressing intensity and the game out on the field when you have less time and space? That is the question mark for her.

“That is why I’m so happy with the Mexico game and hopefully some real quality games in June to prep. Those camps are going to be used as development camp and go back to that process again and get one day better.”

Liberty A-League Golden Boot leader Heyman was not the only domestic player involved against Uzbekistan, with Brisbane Roar star Tameka Yallop a second-half substitute.

On the back of Heyman’s success, Gustavsson lauded the A-Leagues.

“Talking about A-League, I love the question about what Canberra did for Heyman here. It’s not just that club or for Michelle,” he said.

“We need to understand as a national team coach you pick players who have been developed in club land and you try to make the best out of the players you have. Put the right players in the right position with the right mindset.

“But if it wasn’t for the phenomenal job that the clubs do, they couldn’t perform like this. I really want to credit the work that all the clubs are doing with the players to prepare them for this because it’s amazing.

“Then if we can add more investment to those clubs to be given more resources, more time and more professional players, I think we have seen the beginning of Australian football.”