Above: Holly McNamara, who spoke about her Australia debut on Friday’s Asia Cup opener against Indonesia. Photo: Football Australia.
Ben Gilby hears from debutant Holly McNamara, two-goal Ellie Carpenter, and Clare Wheeler who started her first Matildas match on Friday (23/1/22).
It has been a fairytale few months for Holly McNamara. The Melbourne City youngster has taken the A-League Women by storm and on Friday, she made her international debut. “It felt great, it was such an honour,” the teenager explained. “I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported me and given me the opportunity to do this.
“The biggest thing that’s gotten me here is the support I’ve had from my family and friends. They’ve got me through the tough times to get to the good times.
“I spoke to them afterward and I got some videos sent through by my siblings of my parents’ reactions when I came on – there were a few screams!
McNamara explained her feelings on Friday as she was told she was coming off the bench. “I was just told to go for the jog and straight away I was so excited…ecstatic! Then the adrenaline took over and I was just focused on coming on and making an impact.”
The youngster, who is 19 today has been on a rollercoaster ride of emotions in recent times “These whole two weeks have been crazy, quite a shock and overwhelming. The game itself was crazy, very different from what I’m used to, and I’m glad I got to go on.
“The overall thing that came out of that game was the clean sheet and preparing for the next one.
As well as the clean sheet, the game saw Sam Kerr break Australia’s goalscoring record – and made even more special for McNamara as it was the striker who presented her with her first Matildas cap.
“First, congrats to Sam, she definitely deserves it, one of the hardest workers that I’ve seen. Getting my cap from her, especially after her milestone in the game was amazing. The little speech she made for me was very heartfelt.”
“For me, I need to work hard in training to earn more game time prove my worth and be confident in the way I play.”
Ellie Carpenter highlighted what her focus was immediately after Friday’s win over Indonesia. “Right now, we’re looking at recovery, which is very important, especially in a short tournament like this, similar to the Olympics where we had to back up every two days. Ice baths and massage are particularly important for me.”
Looking back on Friday’s game, the Olympique Lyonnais star emphasized the importance of their dominant performance: “Reflecting on the game, it was a great start for us. We really wanted to hit the ground running and be clinical in the final third and we definitely did that. Now it is about building the performance and getting to where we want to be for the final games.
“It was really important for us to set the tone early. Some tournaments we haven’t had the best of starts. This was one big thing that we wanted to do, and we definitely achieved that. We’re keen to keep it going and build on every match.”
“It was important to be clinical and get those final third shots in to get confidence in the early games so come the semi-final or final we know we can finish those chances. Anything that we can do to be prepared for those final matches we will. We wanted to come in from the start and set the tone.”
Carpenter had her own personal reasons for enjoying the outcome – she trebled her goalscoring tally for her country during the match. “It felt really nice to get on the scoreboard (twice). I’ve been working on my play in the final third and in my finishing, so I’m happy it has paid off. Any way that I can contribute to this team winning I will.”
The defender also spoke about her pride in Sam Kerr breaking Australia’s goalscoring record. “To see her break record after record is amazing and I feel very honoured to be playing alongside her. She’s a great captain and an even better player for our country and we’re honoured to have her in our team. She’s the best striker in the world at the moment and it was nice to share that moment with her on the field.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s second group match with the Philippines, Carpenter identified the aims for the tie. “We just want to build on our performance from the first game. We know how we want to play and we want to take the next step to the next level. Whatever team we play, we’ll come out with the same motivation and mentality. We’re ready for this match.”
Clare Wheeler spoke about her pride in starting her first Matildas match in the Asia Cup on Friday. “I can barely find words to describe it – an amazing feeling to get my starting debut. The result and performance were the icing on the cake.
“When Tony told me (that I would be starting), I was ecstatic. I knew I had a job to do and we really wanted to make a statement in the opening game and that’s what we did.
Wheeler highlighted the thought process behind fielding such a strong team for the game against Indonesia before reviewing the outcome. “Regardless of ranking, we treat every team the same. We want to win this tournament – no ifs or buts, so that’s the way we treat every game and that’s what we did.
“There were many positives from the match – Sammy (Kerr) breaking the goalscoring record, Holly (McNamara) making her debut plus myself, Mary (Fowler), and Courtney Nevin making our Asia Cup debuts, all amazing things to see in a first game.”
“We’ve been focusing on recovery, getting movement into our legs with this short turnaround for the Philippines on Monday and we’re looking at that as the next game we need to win.”