Matildas portraits
Matildas portraits

How Matildas stars conquered personal demons

The Matildas have revealed how personal challenges have helped to forge the mental toughness they will call upon on the road to the Olympics.

As Ante Milicic's side prepares to face Thailand on Monday night, seeking a win that could put them into a playoff for a place at the Tokyo Games after crushing Chinese Taipei 7-0 on Friday night, senior members of the side have spoken of how various setbacks have built a team that refuses to wilt.

"All of us girls have our own stories, each one different," says striker Chloe Logarzo.


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"We've all gone through stuff to get to where we are now."

Logarzo's was a personal battle, disappointment in her career leading her down a temporarily destructive path off the field.

For others it's been injury, or a moment of misfortune on the field.

But in each case the end of the story is the most crucial part - the way the misfortune turned to mentality.

The Matildas put seven past Chinese Taipei last Friday night.
The Matildas put seven past Chinese Taipei last Friday night.

That was Alana Kennedy's fate when she took a penalty at the last Olympics, needing to score to keep Australia alive in a shootout against the hosts, Brazil. There were 60,000 fans in the stadium and millions watching on TV. She missed, and the Matildas were out.

"You grow from those experiences," she says now.

"It's not something I overanalyse, it just happened to be me and I missed on the day. But these things happen to the best players in the world.

"What I remember most is the unity of the team, having everyone support me during that time.

"It was hard, knowing I'd let the team down in a sense. But luckily for me, I had a game at my club straight after and my focus shifted back to club football.

"Hopefully we won't put ourselves in that position again, but if we are, I'll be ready to take another."

Logarzo has written a brave personal account of how her reaction to being dropped from the Asian Cup squad in 2015, aged just 18, was to party in America, putting her career in the balance as she went "right off the rails".

"I was sitting in a pub in Colorado, drinking beer and watching the Matildas play on TV," she wrote on The Athlete's Voice.

"I thought, 'What the hell am I doing? I'm such a low-life right now, drinking in a pub watching what I let slip away'."

Thailand leaked six goals against China last Friday night.
Thailand leaked six goals against China last Friday night.

Finally, with the guidance of Newcastle Jets W-League coach Craig Deans among others, Logarzo realised what was at stake and fought her way back to the top.

"If you don't have that mental toughness to fight through anything, you'll fall off the podium," she said.

"You won't reach the heights we're reaching, or even stay in the national team, whether or not you have the talent.

"Unless you have the capacity to put your emotions aside and get the job done then you're not the whole package."

Kyah Simon knows better than most how things can change quickly.

Milicic described her return to this squad as "like having a new player", after she built herself up from another significant injury.

"I love football so much, I honestly think it's that," she said of her motivation.

"I feel like football's my identity. The passion is still there to be successful.

"It's the drive to get better even now, and never being satisfied with what I've achieved to this day. Never settling for what you've done, there's always more trophies to win, always another game."




China v Chinese Taipei

Today, Campbelltown Stadium, 4.30pm.

Australia v Thailand

Today, Campbelltown Stadium, 7.30pm.

TV: Live, Fox Sports and Keo. Delay, ABC.

Australia should win against a Thai side that has lost its first two games and conceded seven goals along the way, and victory for the Matildas would more or less assure them of a place in the final round of play-offs. Unless China score a bucketload of goals against Chinese Taipei, the Matildas would then need only a draw against the Chinese in the final group game on Thursday to avoid a playoff with a very strong South Korea team.

The playoff will be home and away, with the winner getting a place at the Olympics.

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