Above: Bryleeh Henry in action for Western Sydney Wanderers against Melbourne Victory recently. Photo: Kris Goman.
For this week’s #MidweekDub feature, Western Sydney Wanderers and Australia international striker Bryleeh Henry caught up exclusively with Impetus‘ Kris Goman. The pair discussed Henry’s sporting background, her international call-up, and life at Western Sydney Wanderers (26/1/22).
Kris Goman (KG): As our site has a global audience, many readers may not be aware of your background. Can you give us an overview of your footballing journey from junior football onwards?
Bryleeh Henry (BH): Originally I started playing soccer when I was around nine years old. I just joined up on the spot because my friends did it. I actually played six or seven different sports growing up. I had a sporting family. I think being in sport was sort of inevitable for me with sporty parents.
So soccer from nine-years-old and when I was fifteen I had to give up other sports as it started to clash too much. I found my passion and love of soccer so kept playing that. I just started at my local club, Penrith FC. Then I went into my first representative team, Mount Druitt Rangers, and then my first NPL team at Blacktown and then Institute and then Wanderers.
KG: So what were the other sports you were playing?
BH: Gosh, I did athletics, swimming, Oztag (a version of tag rugby), I played softball from when I was four.
KG: And what about your parents? You said you come from a sporty family.
BH: Both of them played soccer. Dad switched over to footy (Rugby League) because he was a bit too rough for soccer. He actually played up until the Penrith first grade and then his age group got wiped so he stopped playing. Mum did soccer and swimming. She went to the Olympic trials for swimming.
KG: Wow. That’s amazing. So you only started with the W-League last season and now you have your first Matildas cap. In your wildest dreams did you think this would happen so quickly?
BH: Not at all. It’s surreal that it happened so quick. It’s always been a dream of mine and it’s what I’ve been working towards for ages but for it to come to reality as quickly as it did, yeah, it’s crazy. I think the last time they played Brazil was when they played in Penrith, where I’m from, and I was in the stands watching with my parents so it’s crazy that this time I was now playing.
KG. Amazing. I was at that game too. That was the first Matildas game I saw live and since then I’ve been obsessed. Haha. So, what are you doing differently since being with the Matildas and what are your big takeaways from those camps and matches?
BH: Well I learned so much from there, even off the field as well. Like the people that the girls are off the field and how Tony (Gustavsson, Australia head coach) is and the coaching staff. I learned so much. Just how intense training was there and trying to bring that back into Wanderers training and keep that intensity up so that if the time comes around and I get the chance to go back into the Matildas camp, I’m still training at that intensity level and it’s not such a big gap and a big difference. I’ve just taken as much as I can away from it and back into my training now, is probably what I’m trying to do most.
KG: So there really is that much of a difference between what you do at the Wanderers day to day to what goes on there. I mean I know that the Matildas camps are very concentrated as you only get a few days together before a big match but the level and intensity is that different from club to country?
BH: I think so, yeah. Obviously, W-League is still massive. It’s a massive league to be playing in and it’s still very intense and you’re competing for spots but I think that international level and the clubs the girls play for overseas is just that step higher. The games are much faster, quicker decisions, you have to be so much fitter and you’re competing for an international spot on an international stage so it’s just that next level up.
KG: Going into your second season with the Wanderers, did you approach the games any different to last year?
BH: I think I’ve sort of gone in with a little bit more confidence. I’m a bit more relaxed. Last year in my first season I was a bit more nervous and didn’t really know what to expect playing in the W-League that I’ve watched growing up for so long. Crazy to be playing in that and I think I was a bit frantic. So coming in this year, I knew what to expect in the game and what training was going to be like so I was a bit more relaxed and confident with myself.
KG: How do you rate the season so far with the Wanderers?
BH: We definitely haven’t got the start that we would like. No team likes to start off losing and drawing games but we’ve definitely had some good passages of play and we’ve played some good football. We’ve been training hard over the last few weeks and I think that we’ve been a bit unlucky in games but we just need to be more clinical with our chances and finishing and that’s what it really comes down to.
That’s why we’ve lost our games. Having a new coach and new girls is great and they’ve been doing amazing. I think if we can just be more clinical in games to come and keep playing the football we know we can, the finals are definitely not out of reach with eight games left. Definitely going for that.
KG: Who made the decision for you to take the penalty the other week? How did you approach that and how were the nerves?
BH: I don’t think there was really a formal decision. No one wanted to take it so I was like, I’ll take it.
KG: So you just grabbed the ball and said, “Pick me. I’ll do it”?
BH: Yeah, that was sort of how it happened. I wasn’t overly nervous. I knew it was important that we needed to score that goal. Every time you get a penalty, it’s an opportunity to get in front and I wanted to put the ball in the back of the net more than anything. I just thought in my head that there’s more pressure on the goalkeeper to save the goal than for me to score it. So I just picked my spot and kept to it.
KG: While the Wanderers defence has been impeccable, the second best in the competition, scoring goals is proving more difficult. How much do you take that on personally and do you think the team will fix that problem?
BH: Yeah, I think it’s definitely personal to a level. That’s my job. Every time I go to the park, I want to score a goal so when I’m not doing that, I obviously don’t feel like I’m doing my job to the best that I can. But I think that as a team, we’ve had opportunities and it’s just that sort of final cutting edge that as a team we need to fix and personally as well.
I know I need to be more clinical in front of goal which is something that I’m working on. I want to win games to come but I think we need to create more chances in front of goal. I think our chances creating and shots on target could definitely be a lot higher than what they have been in past games. Making those numbers higher and having more clear chances on goal will make it more likely we’ll score goals.
KG: It’s hugely important for young girls (and old girls) to have sporting role models. Who were your own and what do you think about being a role model for the next generation?
BH: I have to say, and it’s a bit cheeky that everyone says Sam Kerr but it’s Sam Kerr. She’s the best footballer in the world and she plays my position. I’ve always looked up to her and always watched her. She was everywhere so how could you not watch her growing up. She’s amazing.
I think being a role model myself now and knowing that I can have the influence that older girls like her had on me, I think is something that’s important to me. Being at school and they have big sporting people come in and everyone gets so excited. I know how big that was to me as a little kid. Now to be that person that comes into schools or is at things when little kids come to watch you at games, knowing that I was once in that spot and I know how much it meant to me, I try to be the best role model for them. It’s very important.
KG: Have you actually been back to your school or anything like that to do any of those kinds of things?
BH: I have a couple of times.
KG: And how did that go? Was it pretty cool?
BH: Yeah, it was pretty cool. It was pretty crazy, like I said, to be on the other end of it where kids that I went to school with look up to me.
KG: I mean you’re not that long out of school anyway, are you? Surely it’s only a couple of years so you must know some of the people that are still there I would have thought.
BH: Yeah definitely.
KG: What are your personal aims for the season?
BH: I just want to keep developing as a player to become the best player I can and get as much out of this season as I can. I want to get on the scoresheet. That’s my job and that’s my goal when I step out onto the pitch. So definitely putting more goals away for the team and assisting goals is definitely a goal of mine and working as hard as I can for the team.
KG: What would a good season look like for the Wanderers?
BH: I think, you know, winning more games. Draws we had, there were a couple of draws and a couple of losses last year which sort of cost us that season. We’re at that part of the season now where winning is hugely important. If we don’t, then the finals are going to be out of reach. We want to make finals. That’s been our goal since the start and I think if we can get ourselves back into the top four and keep winning games, finals are definitely our goal.
KG: It’s definitely not out of reach. There’s a group of teams there that are all within a few points of each other and really there are only two wins in it to get you from the middle to finals contention without any problems so, fingers crossed, that’s for sure. Rooting for you.
KG: Do you follow the Women’s Super League in England and the NWSL in the USA? What teams do you follow?
BH: I do follow and I like to watch a lot of the games, especially since the Matildas have gone over. I would say I watch more the Women’s Champions League and the WSL in England. I wouldn’t say I really have a team. I think I just like to float between the games. They’re all competitive. I don’t really have a team. I just like to watch all the players.
KG: So let’s do the rapid-fire questions. I’ll just run through and you can answer these quickly.
KG: What was your best present for Christmas?
BH: Oh gosh. I honestly can’t remember what I got for Christmas. I’m going to say a candle. A really nice smelling candle.
KG: Favourite colour?
KG: Who’s the funniest on the team?
BH: Caitlin Cooper.
KG: Who’s the fastest on the team?
BH: I’m going to say Erica Halloway.
KG: Who’s the best dresser or most fashionable on the team?
BH: Teigan Collister.
KG: Who’s your roomie for away games?
BH: The young Alexia Apostolakis.
KG: What’s your dream car?
BH: Range Rover.
KG: Who would your dream team be to play for?
BH: I’m going to say Chelsea or Manchester City.
KG: And who’s your dream player to play with?
BH: Lieke Martens.
KG: Finally, did you smash your car up yesterday? I saw a photo on Instagram and you got your car stuck. Did you get it unstuck?
BH: I did get it unstuck eventually. Yeah. I had to go all the way back down to go all the way back up but I got there in the end.
KG: So you didn’t scratch your car?
BH: No, I didn’t scratch it. It’s a very tight corner and I actually got caught because my wheels lifted. I was trying to go but they were spinning and I didn’t know what to do. Libby (Copus-Brown, Western Sydney Wanderers teammate) was behind me so I blame it on her.
KG: So that’s about it. Just one final thing, I assume you’ll be watching the Asian Cup?
KG: Great. So who you going for?
BH: The Matildas!
KG: Correct. Right answer! Ha ha.