Obviously the World Cup and in particular that moment when we made it out of the knockout stages against Brazil. That was just an amazing feeling and just a huge achievement, for us as the Matildas but also for Australian football in general.
Coming back from a devastating knee injury
Yeah, it was a tough run for me and it was probably the lowest point in my career, but in saying that I definitely thought that I grew a lot from sustaining that injury and I guess I always had the World Cup in my sights. I wanted to get back with the squad and obviously get back to playing the sport that I love.
As January approached I hadn’t actually realised until after our first game in New Zealand against North Korea that it was my first game back since the ACL or first international game back. It wasn’t until someone brought it to my attention that I actually realised and it felt like time had flown past.
I was really hard on myself actually when I came back because things weren’t happening the way that I’d hoped and I was a little bit behind the pace in terms of where I was at before my ACL. Not necessarily physically, but more so mentally. Kind of I guess football-minded. I hadn’t been in that kind of environment in a long while, so it took me a long while to get back into those train of thoughts of being a footballer and just those things that would generally come second nature on the field. You can’t really practise that individually.
So it took a bit of time, but then once I arrived at the World Cup with the team it made it all worthwhile.
Trusting my body again
That was a big hurdle for me to overcome. Not including the actual 15 months before my first international, it probably took another three or four months after that to actually trust in my body that that wasn’t going to happen or hope that it wouldn’t happen. And it was more so a mental challenge to get over that and just to approach things and say, “You know what, just go for it because you’ve really got nothing to lose. You’ve got more to lose by holding back and not giving it your all and going a hundred percent rather than going half-hearted and just being cautious”.
So I think it really took me a while to overcome that and to start approaching games with no worries and with nothing else in my mind but to play the type of football that I believe I can play.
Being away from home and in Matildas camp in the months before the World Cup
It was obviously a very jam-packed schedule leading into the World Cup and we look back on it now it was definitely worthwhile when we can see how far we’ve progressed as a team, how much we grew as a team, how close we got.
The team morale around the group was at an all-time high and I think that was really evident in the way that we played but also it was because of the amount of time that we spent together, the amount of training sessions together and things like that.
It was tough to obviously not see family and friends and be settled in your own home environment for a long while, but I think we grew into the mindset that we were a part of a family and that was the Matildas group. We were such a close-knit group all the way through those six months leading into the World Cup that nothing was really going to tear us apart. And I think that was really comforting knowing that family and friends were back home believing in us and supporting us following our dreams.
Letting the World Cup experience sink in
In 2011 I was super-excited, it was my first World Cup. I didn’t really know what to expect so I had a very open mind and I was an eighteen year old at the time and I was just really enjoying it and it was over before I knew it. I think that was one thing that I really took on board for the World Cup this year was it’s over before you know it, so you really have to soak up every moment and be present in every situation to really get the full experience and to soak that up. Tha’s definitely a mindset that I took. We got out of the round of sixteen and into the
That was one thing that I really took on board for the World Cup this year was it’s over before you know it, so you really have to soak up every moment and be present in every situation to really get the full experience and to soak that up. Tha’s definitely a mindset that I took.
We got out of the round of sixteen and into the quarter-finals and I just remember thinking we’re three games away from potentially winning a World Cup and I had never even considered that in 2011. I just didn’t really realised the enormity of it, I didn’t really know what to expect, whereas I had a very clear vision of what to expect and what was to come in Canada. I definitely was able to really embrace it a lot more this time round.
That first game against the USA
Even watching the girls those first sixty minutes I was so amazed with how well we were playing and especially against such a powerhouse like the US. It was disappointing to say the least obviously to go down 3-1, but there were a lot of positives to take out of that performance.
When you can see the way that we can play and the potential that the group has, it’s really exciting for the future. But it was so exciting for the future of that tournament also because we knew that we could match it against quality opposition.
If we could play that way for a whole ninety minutes we could beat anyone in the world.
It was tough and obviously we were in the supposed group of death, but we came out the other end and it was a really nice feeling to know that there were many people that supported us but also a lot of people that had probably doubted us as well and we were able to really shine and show the world what the Matildas can do.
Scoring World Cup goals
I get butterflies even thinking about it. When you’re on the world stage and you’re representing your country and you’re alongside your best mates and there’s thousands and thousands and millions of people watching, when the ball goes in the back of the net it’s just an extraordinary feeling and it’s one that I can’t even describe. It’s a sense of joy, a sense of achievement, such an overwhelming feeling of happiness as you celebrate with your teammates, because you’ve all worked so hard obviously to get to that point but also to score that goal.
I wouldn’t be able to do that without my teammates around me and with the support of the staff and coaching staff.
I obviously have a lot of people to thank for helping me get to where I am today, after going through such a tough fifteen months, twenty months prior to the World Cup. My physio Brent Kirkbride, and Jeff White who helped me with my strength and conditioning. So there are a lot of people in the mix to thank that really helped me overcome those struggles and tough times.
But when you’re winning with your national team at the World Cup beating some of the best countries in the world, that’s what makes it all worthwhile. That’s what makes it so memorable.
I feel so blessed to be a part of such an amazing family and supportive family. Since I was a young girl they’ve supported me in everything that I’ve wanted to do, any sport that I’ve played, in my schooling, everything.
To this day they’ve always supported me and encouraged me to be the best that I could be and at no point did they ever doubt me. When I was having rough days or I was doubting myself they’re always the ones to pick me up.
To have them there experiencing a World Cup with me and with the rest of the families and the rest of the girls, I’m so proud of them to be able to come over and support me and to be able to live that experience with me. They went to extraordinary measures to be at my games. They drove cross-country, a ridiculous amount of hours of driving, all of that just to see me live my dream.
I’ve got so much to give back to them and so much to thank them for that I hope by scoring those goals or by being successful in my footballing career and inspiring other people and other young girls out there that they're getting something back off me for all that they’ve sacrificed and given me in my life, my siblings and my parents as well. Unfortunately my sister and my dad and nephews couldn’t come over and support me, but they were keeping very close eyes on me from here, back in the Shire.
Realising the potential of the Matildas
We’ve got the talent and the quality there. Obviously we’re still a very young team and our experience is growing so quickly and enormously as the years go past. With our average age still being around twenty-two that says a lot for the character we’ve got within our group.
I think if we can really embrace the experience that we’ve got, learn from our mistakes and really grow on top of the ability and talent we’ve got, and then be able to put in solid ninety minute performances consistently.
At the end of the day, [coming out with results] - that’s what everything lies on. I think if we can put all those things together but really have that consistently within our performance then the world is really our oyster. But it’s really up to us and up to the team to continually grow in a positive way.
Inspiring the next generation of Indigenous and non-indigenous players
I hope that in all my actions, in obviously the way that I play but also those opportunities that I get to go out and speak to young Indigenous groups and to speak to different corporate groups and things like that I can share my experiences, my aspirations for the future, and my willingness to help people from all walks of life to achieve great things.
I think there’s one thing that holds back a lot of people from doing that and that’s believing in themselves and believing that they can do that. I take that on with a great honour and a great sense of pride that I can influence people’s lives in a positive manner.
I hope that I can inspire many different types of people but also different ages, and the young Indigenous kids out there that don’t necessarily play football or soccer but the usual codes of rugby league and AFL and union. There are so many different opportunities that lie within the world game and if I can really open their eyes to the opportunities that lie ahead of them because there’s so much raw talent and ability then I’m almost as proud of being able to do that as I am when I score for my country.
Looking ahead in 2016
At the moment I’ve got all my sights set on the Olympics. I just think of being able to be called an Olympian and going there and achieving great things. I want so badly to be at the Olympics in Rio that I want to do anything in my power to help the team to get there!
This interview with Kyah Simon was recorded by The Women's Game.