"Ecstatic" Laura Brock soaking up every minute of Tokyo 2020

The expansion of Olympic football squads from 18 to 22 players has meant alternate players have become fully-fledged members of the team.

It was a big deal for Mackenzie Arnold, Charlotte Grant, Courtney Nevin and Laura Brock, but it particularly means a lot for the latter.     

After injury ruled her out of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France and she wasn’t in the team for the Olympic qualifying tournament in 2020, this moment is special.

“I was just ecstatic when I found out that the squad had been shifted from 18 to 22. It means so much to me on a personal level, coming towards the end of my career, every tournament means so much."

"Having missed out on the World Cup due to injury, it was so special,” Brock explained.

“The roller coaster of finding out that I didn't quite make it, but I was still able to stay with the team, I was grateful that I was able to continue on with the girls.

"I spoke to a number of them about being able to support them from the sidelines and do my best in training, to make sure that I was going to help them be as prepared as they could be.”

By the same token, Brock knew she needed to be prepared in case injury forced her to be activated and used in games.

“It was upsetting initially. Once I got my head around it and spoke with my family and explained to them that I'd still be with the team, I had come to terms with it.

"Then to find out I was being brought back into the team, was a very emotional moment. I think a lot of the girls felt that emotion with me and really got around me and the other girls who had been added as well.”

Ultimate Guide: Australia v Japan

Player Profile: from Blacktown to the world stage, Courtney Nevin's journey to the Matildas squad

The news of missing out and then being included was obviously big for Brock, but so too for her family, particularly her husband, Cameron.

“I guess to be given the news that I wasn't in the final squad and thinking I've just spent a year in France, I've just dragged my husband and my dog halfway around the world to give it one last push and really try to get to this Olympics - then to find out I just missed out by maybe one spot, was really crushing to hear. But I wouldn't have changed a thing.”

Tokyo provides the first opportunity for the ‘Brock 5’ jersey to get a run at a major tournament. It’s something that means a lot to Laura and Cameron, especially with a sentimental eye towards the future.  

“Yes, my first major tournament as Mrs. Brock. It's a bit of a shame that he can't be there to watch. I mean, he'll still be watching no matter what hour. And if he's not, he's in big trouble.” Brock said with a laugh.  

“Hopefully [I’ll] have a few games to remember with Brock on my back. And also some jerseys to pass on to some little ones, hopefully soon.”

Besides the personal gain, Brock also believes the expansion of the squad is the best news for player health and safety as well as squad management.

“Protecting the players is of the utmost importance and having such a grueling tournament with a game every three days would have been such a difficult challenge under those circumstances," she explained.

You know, having 18 players in a regular season where you have one game a week is difficult, let alone in such a tight tournament where there are games every other day.”

Now any knocks or niggles can be managed which benefits the squad as a whole and highlights the importance of good depth in your ranks.

“I think having 22 is going to do such great things for the whole tournament, people aren't going to be as tired. I'm sure all the countries are very thankful for the growth in numbers. I'm very thankful because it means that I get to represent my country.”

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Roster: Introducing the goalkeepers

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Roster: Introducing the defenders

The pride Brock feels in pulling on the jersey is enormous and she is hopeful that she and her teammates can put in their very best performances in Tokyo.

“Even just putting on our training jersey, I just get this immense pride. I love this team so much."

"We've fallen short a few times and I just really want to see us go all the way this Olympics. I'm just so stoked that I get to be there to witness it and hopefully I get some minutes and can put my old skills on the field and maybe help some of the girls out when they're tired.”

Australia begins its Olympic campaign against New Zealand on July 21.