Above: Canberra United’s Michelle Heyman (left) captured in full flow against Brisbane Roar earlier this season. Photo: Canberra United.
Canberra United captain and the A-League Women’s all-time record scorer Michelle Heyman spoke to the media this week highlighting the need for the competition’s players to be seen as professionals and the need for a fairer league. The striker also reviewed the club’s season. Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from The Matildas and Canberra United legend.
Michelle Heyman is a legend of Australian football. When she speaks, players and fans listen. After hearing a series statements from the striker expressing her frustration with those running the A-League Women, one can only hope that the powers that be take note as well.
“This was the most stressful season I’ve ever been part of. Games and kick-off times changed every single week, which produced a whole lot of stress. I felt sorry for Melbourne Victory for playing so many games close together and Newcastle Jets who just ran out of players in the end.”
Whilst no-one could have predicted the COVID outbreaks that impacted both Victory and the Jets (along with many other clubs), Heyman highlighted the fact that the inability to extend the season to avoid such a huge backlog of games demonstrated a failure to understand women’s football.
“It’s about time we changed and were seen as professionals. We’ve become the A-Leagues – football is one and we need to be treated as one. The women need to get together and push for this. Most of us have to work during the season, so having to try and get time off for midweek rearranged games (particularly for long-distance ones) is an additional stress on us. Some of the standards haven’t been up to it. It’s our time. We need to speak up for where we are at. I’ll continue to be as loud as possible because we deserve it. It’s taking too long to get what the players want.”
Heyman was asked if she hopes that all the additional challenges put on players this season across the competition could end up being the final driver for the sort of change that players and fans have been calling for.
“I bloody hope so,” the striker smiled, “I’ve been here since 2008/09 season and it’s been a long time for myself. You would think that by now we would have had a full home and away season to play each other twice. Some teams only play the top teams once, others twice. The competition isn’t fair from the get-go.”
Canberra United’s captain then turned her focus on her team’s 2021/22 campaign. “Frustrating is the word that sums the season up. Having so many draws (seven of the club’s 14 games) – if we had got one or two wins from those draws could have made such a difference. Looking at the season and how we turned it round over the last four games makes it frustrating.
“We dominated teams in that period. We lost the same number of games as Adelaide (five) all season and they made the Finals. Looking ahead for next season, we have to take all our chances and make sure you do come out with the wins. We need to work on the last 15 minutes and not conceding. Teams came back to get draws or wins against us during that period.”
Heyman took huge pride about the development of her club’s younger generation of players across the campaign. “I look at Sasha Grove from last season to this and she’s come on the field and took players on and now she has that experience. She’s had two years now, she’ll be 18 now and these young players are getting that bit older and more experience.
“With Chloe Lincoln (who only turned 17 in January), she is a goalkeeper and has so much pressure. She took it with both hands and was our Rising Star this season. It’s a great thing for Canberra, but also for the league to showcase and show everyone what is to come. If this is what we’ve got, it’s nice to see the growth within our game.”
The media conference closed with potentially the best possible news for all lovers of Australian women’s football as Heyman outlined her future plans.
“Most definitely I will be back next season. I’m loving the game. I feel fit, I’m still scoring goals and doing my job. No-one can stop me yet. There’s a few more players who are 34 and even older than me. I don’t want to give up. Don’t let it go until you can’t. So I’m continuing until people tell me I’m not good enough. I’ve still got it, so they’re not taking it away from me yet!”