• Matilda and Sydney FC player Caitlin Foord (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
When the W-League was created in 2008, then Matildas coach Tom Sermanni stated that the aim of the league was to develop future Matildas.
Ann Odong

18 Nov 2016 - 10:02 AM  UPDATED 18 Nov 2016 - 2:39 PM

There is no greater poster child for that aspiration than Matildas and Sydney FC forward Caitlin Foord. 

This month marks the six-year anniversary of Foord's debut in the W-League and almost fittingly, could end in the 22-year-old crowned as the best women's football player in Asia.

Foord was nominated for the AFC Women's Player of the Year award alongside fellow Matilda Lisa de Vanna and China's Tan Ruyin. The winner will be announced in Abu Dhabi on December 1.

"It was a bit of a surprise," said Foord of the nomination. 

"Obviously it is an awesome honour and it is great to be nominated alongside those players, especially having another Aussie is always nice."

Foord burst onto the scene as part of a group of precocious 16 and 17-year-olds which included Samantha Kerr, Emily van Egmond and Steph Catley.

In her debut W-League season under the guidance of then Sydney FC coach Alen Stajcic she demonstrated all the attributes – the searing pace, strong technique and dribbling skills - that have made her a world class player able to play almost any position on the pitch. 

Fifty one Matildas and 66 W-League appearances later, the talent has matured into one that makes her a key attacking and defensive player for club and country. 

Being nominated for the 2016 AFC award is particularly satisfying for the Shellharbour native in a year in which she has had to overcome a serious injury.

She had surgery in January on a broken collarbone suffered in round 12 of the 2015/16 W-League season, putting her in doubt for the Matildas' Rio Olympic qualifying campaign.

However, in the end the injury was a blessing in disguise.

The enforced down time kept Foord in Australia during the W-League off-season – for the first time in three years – and the rehab made her fitter and stronger than ever before. 

Foord steps in to help Matildas defence repel Brazil
Australia star Caitlin Foord is getting used to being surprised at World Cups.

"I absolutely hated the gym before," she laughed.  "If you had seen me in the USA, I would be in the back corner just pretending to do things just because I hated it.

"After I hurt my collarbone, I had to stay fit and I have had to knuckle down and be in the gym.

"I now really feel different when I am out on the field.  I feel stronger, more explosive and fitter than ever in my career."

Foord went on to be crucial to Australia’s undefeated run to qualify for Rio and she played a huge role in the Matildas making it to the quarter-finals at the Games.

"To stay fit and healthy leading into the Olympics, I was just grateful to be there and living a dream of mine," she said. 

Foord's stellar form has continue in the current W-League season but the star believes there is still plenty of room for improvement.

"One thing I really want to improve on and have been working on is my finishing," she says. "I think that if I can get a bit better at that then my game can go to another level." 

Perhaps an ominous warning to the rest of the W-League.