Grace Maher said she dreaded making that phone call to Canberra United coach Njegosh Popovich.
She was calling to tell him she was heading to Melbourne to play with Western United, a grand finalist in its inaugural season earlier this year.
Grace’s trepidation was understandable – she’s been one of the Canberra club’s leaders and a player with tremendous community profile.
Grace is well remembered as a local junior playing for the Majura club. She also enjoyed a stint as a 13-year-old ball kid at Canberra home games before becoming United’s youngest ever debutant at 15 years of age in Canberra’s 2014/15 championship winning season.
Grace played 67 games in the W-League for Canberra in two stints over seven seasons with 13 goals, a premiership and a championship.
In between stretches in Canberra, she played with Melbourne Victory where she secured a premiership in the 2018/19 season and with KR in Iceland.
Along the way, she also captained the Young Matildas.
A home-grown success story with a family immersed in grassroots sport, her rise to prominence has resonated with the Canberra football community.
During her second stint with Canberra, Grace reinforced her community ties by coaching the Majura under 12 girls this season.
“Coaching the under 12 Majura girls has been great,” Grace says. “But I want to focus completely on my football for a season.”
It’s not to say she’s ruled out a return.
“Canberra is my home. I can see myself returning one day towards the back end of my career.”
In the meantime, her focus and reason for joining Western United is a desire to improve as a player.
“I’m definitely doing what is right for me as a player. I want to be tested,” Grace says.
“When I left to play for Victory a few years ago I learnt a lot about myself.
“I want to get out of my comfort zone; what Western United is trying to do aligns with my ambitions.”
At 24 and still striving to better herself on the pitch, the ambition to secure a full-time contract overseas remains an option. And it’s hard to imagine Grace not playing football somewhere.
“It’s taken me around the world,” she says. “I love the game, I’ll be playing for a long time to come.”
That should give hope to Canberra United fans eager to see Grace for a third stint at the club.