A key part of the Matildas Olympic Qualifying campaign, the striker has chosen to remain in Australia to prepare for the tournament of a life time.
By
Michelle Heyman

15 May 2016 - 12:13 PM  UPDATED 15 May 2016 - 12:13 PM

After a short break, Heyman and the Matildas are back in camp

It’s just amazing to be back with the girls. It’s been like a hard maybe month-and-a-bit trying to train by ourselves in the off-season, so getting back with the team has made everything so much easier for us.

Australia has a tough group but the Matildas aren't phased

 

I was pretty stoked with it. I didn’t think it was too bad of a draw compared to like the World Cup one. So I was just like well, I believe that we’re a lot better than what we were during the World Cup and the teams that we played against then were a lot tougher than this group. So I feel pretty confident and I have the belief in the team that we can do well. So I was, yeah, chuffed about it.

The team confidence from the World Cup is still strong

I think the biggest one [lesson] was just that we can do it, that we are better than what we’ve been told over the years, and that the team that we have, if we just play as a team and believe in each other, then we can set out to achieve all of our goals. That’s one thing that our group definitely has learnt and taken in. It’s a great atmosphere that we have with the group. It’s more family-orientated now instead of cliques and things like that. So I think we’ve all become one and we just want to work hard for each other and get the same goal.

And Heyman believes coach Alen Stajcic will have the team prepared for medal charge

He’s awesome actually. He knows so much about us as well, like the football side of us and even personal stuff back home. So it’s kind of nice that you can have a friend who is gonna coach you and give you and all these skills to become a better footballer. I think he works so well with us and especially he has the experience with females in sport, so it’s just so nice to have someone who understands the game and understands what we need and how much we can do before we break. He gets it.

There are many Matildas players to keep an eye on Rio

Most definitely the usual characters, like Steph Catley, Katrina Gorry and Lydia Williams. Without those our team wouldn’t be as feisty and have that creative mindset to it. So yeah, Lydia Williams is always my favourite.

And look for co-captain Lisa De Vanna to be leading from the front

That girl, like this is all that she’s been waiting for for so long and she finally can feel it within the team.

I think the passion that De Vanna has for our team and for football in general is incredible and it’s something that you can always use on and off the field.

She says that she has more belief in what we have compared to when she went 12 years ago, so that coming from her has put more belief in myself and belief in the team that actually we can do this.  So yeah, she’s just one of those great girls that you actually need to have in your team.

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Off the field, Heyman has also been busy meeting PM Turnball and appearing on Play School

Play School was the best day of my life I think. I remember when I was little watching it, so for me to go on that show. My mum was pretty proud, she was very happy. She said that I’ve made it! I’ve made it big, as soon as you get on Playschool.

It was at ABC studios and we went there and we had to sing “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands” which was very tiring. I’m not a great singer, so it was tough. It took us maybe like three hours. We got there at the end of the day. It was good fun, it was really nice.

The big question was asked: what’s your favourite window?

I know and I’m pretty sure it was - I think it was the arch.

ATHLETE BLOG: Michelle Heyman, the homecoming king
Matildas striker, Michelle Heyman, returns home to the Illawarra Stingrays and to gather strength before heading off to Rio to chase Australia's first football medal. She writes exclusively for SBS Zela.

Heyman has also been giving back to the grassroots

Lately I’ve been doing my own coaching clinics and I’ve just had one mum who keeps helping me so much, her name’s Sarah, and she constantly wants better for women in football because she wants her daughter to one day be a Matilda.

 

And she’s like if, “I can start here with you and help you with anything that you need in life...” then hopefully by the time her daughter comes around it’s a lot easier for them to have a full-time job as a footballer. So this mum, she’s helping me out constantly with my coaching clinics, with my merchandise that I’m trying to sell. She’s putting her foot down and thinks the absolute world of me and thinks that I’m a great role model for her daughter. So hearing those things from her, yeah, I think she’s my biggest fan.

And she is embracing her status as a role model

I think that was the main thing that I wanted to get across for myself, because growing up being gay I actually was a little bit scared to become a professional athlete because I didn’t want to get judged by parents or by other teammates or anything like that.

But I think how I did it, I wanted to be me and I couldn’t hide that from anyone or myself. Even my mum sat down with me and we had like a whole chat and she was like, “Not everyone will understand who you are and why you are like this, but if you just be yourself and believe in yourself and be proud of who you are then I think most parents will see the best out of you and go from there”.

So I was like, “Okay, I’m just going to be me and go with it” and I’ve never hidden anything about myself and I think I’m a great role model, being gay or straight.

I put the point across that to be a professional athlete you just have to be happy and enjoy what you’re doing and make sure that you work hard, and life is gonna be full of sacrifices to become the best that you can be but I think doing that is just - I think being a role model is the best thing about my job.

I want to show that, I want kids to be happy with themselves and grow up and live the life that they wanna live and not to be scared. That’s what I try and put out.