Centurion still has many caps ahead of her

Sally Shipard talks with our latest Matildas centurion Heather Garriock.

Heather Garriock reached the magic milestone of 100 International caps last Sunday night against the USA, making her only the FOURTH Australian footballer to do so. It-s quite an achievement considering she is still only 25.

H (as she is more commonly known to her team mates) made her debut against China in October 1999 and the following year as a 17- year-old she represented Australia at the Sydney Olympics. After sitting on the bench for the majority of the first three years while in the squad, H has proven herself and has cemented her position in the starting team. Her stamina and undying attitude to win sets her apart. H has represented Australia at two senior World Cups and the 2004 Olympic games.

Sally Shipard, team mate and budding journalist of the future, caught up with Heather after the game on Sunday, to get a brief but wonderful insight into some of her experiences, including her latest achievement.

“It-s a milestone that any athlete would look forward to,” the Sydney girl said of achieving 100 appearances for the Matildas. “I didn-t approach the game any differently though. Originally my parents wanted to fly over, but they decided not to because I would only see them briefly.”

In a lovely gesture, H was presented with a bunch of flowers by the US Captain (Khristie Rampone) and the milestone was announced over the speakers at the ground. Heather was also presented with the match ball, signed by the entire US and Australian National Teams and the ball will be boxed in a case, as part of the new cap recognition program implemented by the Football Federation Australia for such achievements.

In truth, Heather and the team were lucky to get on the park on Sunday and she admitted it wasn-t the most ideal preparation for the momentous occasion. Upon our arrival at the ground, the heavens opened up and there was a massive down poor. The sky didn-t appear to be clearing up and almost one hour after the scheduled time, we kicked-off.

"We were all convinced that we wouldn't actually be playing because of the weather conditions. Can you imagine if the game was cancelled?”

It was mixed emotions for H on the night, playing a role in Australia-s opening goal for Kate Gill, which saw Australia fight back to equalise, only for her to suffer a severe cork to her thigh and hip and then watch as the US scored an injury time winner.

Heather was supposed to fly back to Denmark between the two US games to play for her club team, Danish League side Fortuna Hjorring. Their Cup final was to be played mid-week, before she was to fly back to Alabama for the second of the friendly internationals against the US this Saturday.

The cork was severe enough for advice from our medical staff was for her to stay put and rest. Following the decision H had to contact her Danish coach and give him the bad news. H has been in Denmark for only 6 weeks, having played 8 games and scoring 8 goals, so she was going to be a big loss for the team in the final.

“He was disappointed, but understanding at the same time. I would have loved to go back and played in the Cup final, but my body wouldn-t have handled it and I want to be fit for our next US game.”

The main aim of the matches against the US is to provide great preparation for us leading into the Asian Cup in May and June.

“In terms of the teams preparations, it-s great to have the friendly matches with the US, it will provide us with a clear view as to where we are at. “

The groups have been announced and the Matildas will play South Korea, Japan and Vietnam. Assuming we finish in the top two of our group, a clash against either North Korea or China in the semi-final is looming.

“We are now very experienced against our Asian neighbours, we will be expecting nothing less than the final two places, and hopefully we can go one better than our result in 2006 (runners-up).

“We have earned the respect within the Australian public; in the past we have always been under achievers, but now we have expectations, which are great, but we need to maintain that and keep raising the bar.”

Heather is very focussed when it comes to her personal goals and ambitions. Having recently played professionally overseas, H has achieved a goal she has always strived for.

“I-ve always wanted to play professionally overseas; I ‘m learning and improving everyday and want to continue doing so.”

Taking a look beyond her own football career H has established a Football Academy in Sydney. Obviously travelling and playing overseas means that she can-t be there all the time, but she is lucky to have a supportive network at home that help the business operate while she is away.

“My coaching academy back in Australia is obviously something I want to remain heavily involved with. I hope I get the opportunity to go home and play competitive football, semi-professionally perhaps and focus on my academy as well.”

There is no doubt that if she can achieve, just half, of what she has achieved on the field, then her academy will be a success, although for now playing the game is still the priority and given her age and ability, there is no reason why another 100 appearances is not out of the question for this remarkable footballer.