1 March 2024

Michelle Heyman’s recall to the Matildas is a great Canberra sporting success story

| Tim Gavel
Join the conversation
Michelle Heyman celebrating

A new generation of fans now appreciates Michelle Heyman’s skills. Photo: Michelle Heyman Facebook.

Canberra has a sporting history where success is often defined by achievement under adversity.

With five rounds to go in the 1989 NSWRL season, the Raiders were seventh and in danger of missing the finals. They then won nine in a row to win the premiership. And on 6 July 1980, the ACT Australian Rules team upset the VFL at Manuka Oval – certainly a win for the ages.

These are just two examples of Canberra sports rising against the odds.

READ ALSO Canberra girls (and everyone else!), lace up and discover your new passion

The latest instalment to add to this history is the recall of Michelle Heyman to the Matildas.

Until her selection for the first leg of the Olympic qualifiers against Uzbekistan, Michelle hadn’t played for the Matildas for six years.

Canberra United's Michelle Heyman. Photo: Supplied.

Michelle Heyman when playing for Canberra United. Photo: Supplied.

She announced her retirement from international football in 2019. Her last appearance for the Matildas was in 2018 while playing in her eighth season with Canberra United. After 61 caps, she was convinced she would never play for Australia again.

She was playing to enjoy the sport rather than any aspiration to national selection.

Michelle was in and out of top-line football, spending a couple of seasons in the NSW NPL1 with the Illawarra Stingrays. After a season in Adelaide, she returned to Canberra for the 2020 W League campaign and a stint for Gungahlin United.

In career-best form at the moment in the A League Women’s, with 12 goals in 16 games, Michelle demonstrates that players aren’t necessarily at their best in their 20s.

Michelle Heyman preparing for the second game against Uzbekistan. Michelle Heyman Facebook.

Michelle Heyman preparing for the Matildas second game against Uzbekistan. Michelle Heyman Facebook.

She is 35 years of age and will be 36 when the Olympics are underway in Paris this year.

I mention the Olympics because there is every chance Michelle will be part of the 18-strong Matildas team.

In place of the injured Sam Kerr and subsequent appearance on the field in the 73rd minute in the first leg of the qualifier against Uzbekistan, her recall will go down in the annals of Canberra sporting folklore.

With the scores locked at nil-all, Michelle scored the opening goal in what became a 3-0 victory for Australia.

It was her first goal for the Matildas since the 2016 Olympics.

“To be able to step on that pitch for them and score the goal that opened it up for the rest of the team is an incredible feeling, and I feel so honoured to get a second chance,” says Michelle.

“It just felt so nice to be able to do what I love with the girls I love and play for my country.”

READ ALSO QUIZ: How many homes are there in Canberra? Plus 9 other questions this week

Interestingly enough, her return to the Matildas in such a public way has exposed her to a new generation of fans, many of whom may not have seen her play before.

Then came the second leg of the Olympic qualifying series at Marvel Stadium. Michelle’s four goals in the first half were unbelievable. (Yes. Four.)

In the minds of many, including those exposed to Michelle’s unique qualities for the first time, it would be a travesty if she wasn’t on the plane to Paris.

Michelle’s selection in the Olympic team would simply add to this remarkable chapter in Canberra’s sporting history.

Where the success of the Matildas at the 2023 World Cup has opened up a new world for women’s football, Michelle’s return has added to the story, inspiring many with her stunning performance.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Denis O'Connor11:51 am 03 Mar 24

Would be great to see Michelle and Sam playing together. But at whose expense? The selection of Michelle also points to the dearth of out and out strikers coming through the ranks.

Stephen Saunders1:46 pm 02 Mar 24

And pulled one back for Canberra United last night, with nobody watching. Among other things, Michelle is a world model of unassuming dignity and grace, for all those male sports stars, still way too frightened to come out of the closet.

Unless she goes right out of form, she should be an automatic start in Paris, alongside Fowler. No mere No. 9, she works hard for the team, all round the pitch.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.