Bryleeh Henry: Hitting her targets and aiming for the World Cup

In our latest of our weekly Midweek Dub interviews with top A-League Women players, Melbourne City’s Bryleeh Henry spoke exclusively to Impetus’ Kieran Yap about her move to Melbourne City, experiences at the U20 World Cup and how she’s aiming for a place in the senior World Cup squad next year (14/12/22).

Above: Bryleeh Henry making progress for the Young Matildas in August’s FIFA U20 World Cup. Photo: Football Australia.

When the move starts, Bryleeh Henry is not visible to the cameras, but she is already on the move. As Maria Rojas carries the ball forward for Melbourne City, the Young Matilda is wide and high up the ground. By the time the cross comes in, she is free at the back post to tap home for her first goal for Melbourne City.

The Wellington Phoenix defenders appeal to the assistant referee, but Henry was almost five yards onside when the cross came in. She moves forward, then wide, before arriving in the six-yard box seemingly unmarked amid a crowd of defenders.

That movement, patience, and composure in front of goal is why so many observers admire the new City striker. The 19-year-old has always shown impressive guile around goal. After an injury-hit season at Western Sydney Wanderers, she is eager to recapture her best form at City.

“Last year I wasn’t happy with my season,” she told Impetus.

 “It wasn’t my best season. I thought a chance to get out of my comfort zone to City who have been a successful club (would help.)”

“We have quality strikers at City. Which makes it even better because it makes it more competitive trying to fight for a spot. I’m really excited to play with Willkie (Hannah Wilkinson), the two Americans we’ve got on the wings, and Hollie McNamara when she comes back, I’ll be excited to play with her.”

Henry first gained attention in the A-League Women with a brace in 2020 against her new club. Then aged just 17, she was trusted to lead the line at Western Sydney. Although injury stalled her 2021/22 season, she calmly scored a crucial penalty to earn the Wanderers their first win of the season.

For much of her A-League career, Henry has been used as a lone striker, or centre-forward. With City’s attacking and playmaking options, her role has changed. But as the Round One goal, and another in Round Three demonstrated, she will have support to be even more dangerous.

“I gravitated towards ‘nine’,” she says, “But with the Young Matildas I played more on the wing. I don’t really have a preference, it depends on the team that you’re playing. Sometimes you’re going to be more useful more as a nine or winger. I really like either, as long as I’m trying to score goals that all that matters.”

Henry started all three of Australia’s games at the Under 20 World Cup. It was her goal that gave them the lead against Costa Rica in the opening match. Once more, the goal was a result of clever anticipation, and breakneck speed capped off with a composed finish.

Although many of her goals come from around the six-yard box, her involvement usually begins further up the field, sometimes off the ball. It is a trait that has earned her comparisons with Matildas’ captain Sam Kerr.

By the end of Round Four this season, Henry has scored three times in as many games. Her knack for being in the right place, and ability to pounce on any opportunity makes her a dangerous forward. The 19-year-old’s increasing consistency is turning her into one of Australia’s best strikers of any age.

“I love being involved in the play then turning, getting forward, and hopefully being on the end of things. That’s how both Leah (Blayney) and Rado (Vidosic) liked the team to play

“There’s a lot that I took from the World Cup, especially against Brazil and Spain. We got world-class opponents and hard teams. Like (Immaculada) Gabarro from Spain, the way that she moves herself around and can score goals against any opponent.

“I was pretty happy with my tournament. I think learning I could compete at that level was a good confidence booster.”

Henry has joined some familiar faces at City. Naomi Chinnama, Daniela Galic, and Sally James were all part of the World Cup Squad. That established chemistry will help all of them this season.

“We’ve played over there and in the conditions. The chemistry that we’ve built is so important and will only build further in this season when we train together every single day. I think that’s important.”

The Under 20 World Cup was not the striker’s first high-profile experience in Green and Gold. She already has two senior caps to her name. She featured for The Matildas against Brazil and was in the squad to face the USA.

“I’m so grateful for the time that I got to go in against those two opponents. USA and Brazil are world-class, so to go into camp and get that experience, to be able to get minutes was just amazing.

“Learning from them, and getting everything can playing and training with the senior girls was something I look back on a lot.”

A taste of senior international football and a goal in front of 30,000 Costa Rican fans has only increased Henry’s appetite for more. Although she has barely had time to let it all sink in, she is not one to rest on her achievements.

That should be music to the ears of City fans and spells trouble for their opponents.

“This is the last season before the World Cup, and an extended season with more games gives you more of chance to showcase yourself and put your best foot forward. I want to score as many goals as possible. That’s all I’m thinking about when I go onto the pitch.

“Last season I didn’t do that. This season I just want to build for the World Cup and go into this season with confidence and help the team in any way I can. We’ve got the coach, we’ve got the players, we’ve got everything around us to have a successful season. I want to put my best foot forward for this World Cup if I can.”

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