In the latest of our #MidweekDub series of interviews, Clare Wheeler, one of last season’s top W-League players, spoke to Ben Gilby about Sydney FC’s campaign last year, her move to Denmark with Fortuna Hjørring, and her experiences of international football with the Matildas. (29/12/21).
Above: Clare Wheeler (left) takes on Marta whilst on international duty for Australia against Brazil in October. Photo: Football Australia.
Clare Wheeler was one of the stand-out players in the W-League last season, starring with eventual Grand Final runners-up Sydney FC.
Wheeler’s footballing journey started as a teenager as she reveals: “I started my professional career at Newcastle Jets when I was 15 years old. Following several seasons with Newcastle, I moved to Sydney FC for both my personal life and football ambitions. I enjoyed every aspect of my time with Sydney FC. It was a great environment and the team was super welcoming.”
The Sky Blues took the Premiers’ title last season, winning nine of their 12 regular season matches before dispatching Canberra United comfortably 3-0 in their semi-final at Kogarah. This then led to a Grand Final showdown with Melbourne Victory which saw the two sides only separated at the very end of extra time courtesy of Kyra Cooney-Cross’ Olimpico.
As heartbreaking as it was at the time, Wheeler looks back at the outcome philosophically eight months on.
“We would have loved to achieve the double last season, but it was not to be. However, I’m proud to have been a part of the premiership side. I was then given an opportunity overseas at Fortuna Hjørring in Denmark.
“Moving to Fortuna was a difficult decision to make in the midst of Covid but I haven’t looked back since. The decision was made easier by the long history the club has had with Australian nationals and the fact that I would be joined by three fellow Australian teammates and one in the coaching staff.”
In terms of how she’s found the Danish game, Wheeler was clear that it has been a step up.
“Football in Denmark is very technical and many players have great ball skills. There’s a focus here on technical execution.
At Fortuna, we have a goal station and one-on-one training. It has allowed me to add more to my game on the ball.”
Wheeler’s form at Sydney and now at Fortuna Hjørring led to a call-up to the Matildas for recent internationals. It was a dream come true for the Coffs Harbour-born player.
“I’m extremely grateful to be given an opportunity to represent my country. I believe Tony Gustavsson has provided many players the opportunity to test themselves at the next level as he focuses on the 2023 World Cup.”
As her career develops further, Wheeler is aware of her growing status as a role model for the next generation of footballers in Australia, something that she underlines the importance of.
“I believe it’s hard to be what you can’t see. Hopefully, as the game continues to evolve and grow, more coverage will not only promote the women’s game to future generations but also allow fairer compensation for our elite female athletes to continue to play the game.”
Impetus would like to thank former Matilda Alison Foreman for her assistance in arranging our interview with Clare Wheeler.