A short and bittersweet French experience leaves Emma Checker with plenty of life lessons.
A stress fracture has cut short Westfield Matildas defender Emma Checker’s move to France's Division 1 Féminine.
Coming off a premiership and championship winning season with Melbourne City, the 24 year old looked to continue her strong form with FC Fleury 91.
However, three months after departing, Checker announced her return to Australia.
“Unfortunately, I have sustained a pretty, pretty brutal injury,” Checker told matildas.com.au.
“I have got a stress fracture in my fibula. It came on a few weeks ago now. It started during a training week, and it just escalated into being a lot worse than initially planned.
“By the time I was certain of what it was from the results of an MRI, it had reached the point of being stress fracture.”
The results of the MRI were a bitter blow for Checker who confessed she was in the best form and shape of her career.
Despite a couple of weeks of rehabilitation in Fleury-Mérogis, she made the choice to return to familiar shores and surrounds.
I just had to make a big decision in that moment of what's best for my body and what's best for my rehab - mentally and well-being wise."
“I decided that I felt confident and comfortable being in the hands of the medical staff within Australia, so it felt like a no brainer to return home and get myself back on track over here.”
Checker was a part of a significant contingent of Westfield Matildas and Australian footballers to head to Europe at the conclusion of the 2019/20 Westfield W-League season.
For the Adelaide born footballer, while her second overseas stint may not have ended how she envisaged, she believes that the period in France will provide a net positive in the long term.
“I was really excited to try something new and felt like it was the perfect opportunity after a season filled with success. I was really excited for a personal challenge and a football challenge."
“My experience obviously ended up very differently to as planned, but I just learned so much and I picked a different style of play.
“I absorbed European football and even though I would have loved to learn more, I have still been able to take a lot of lessons in that area from the three months that I spent over there.
On a personal note, I was able to discover a lot about myself; dealing with adjusting to new challenges and facing different cultural barriers. I was able to understand parts of myself that I may never have been exposed to had I remained comfortable.”
In many ways, at 24, Checker is a young veteran and in her career she is a player who has not shied away from making herself uncomfortable.
Three years ago, the defender played a season in the South Korean WK League with the Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels WFC – one of the first Australian women to do so.
Situated in the north of the country, the cultural and linguistic challenges presented by that 2017 Incheon stint prepared her for another environment that would provide similar tests.
“Learning comes from being uncomfortable,” Checker commented.
“I look at the most uncomfortable times in my life and I've had the greatest lessons from those moments. I do throw myself in the deep end and I've done it, numerous times now.
I'm not here to say that it's been easy and that I haven't had moments of feeling like it's very challenging and quite uncomfortable. Sometimes it feels unbearable, but I always know in those moments that I'm learning my biggest life lessons and that I'm coming out the back end of that a much greater version of myself.”
“I feel like when I reflect on my South Korean experience, and now I will do the same from my French experience, that I'm a better person because of those chances that I took.”
For now Checker is back in Australia and, once she completes the COVID-19 quarantine, she will return to Melbourne to get back on her feet with sights still firmly on the Westfield Matildas.
With new Westfield Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson set to bring the players together, while Checker is eager to get an opportunity to push her claim, she is aware that returning to the pitch is her top priority.
“It's obviously been challenging for me being injured at this time knowing that all of this is happening,” she said.
“I would love to be at a point where I am getting game time and showing what I've got, but I'm also confident that if I commit to my rehab process properly that I can bounce back in time to show him [Tony].
“For me in the short term the main focus is just getting my body back on track and making sure that I do everything I can to get back in the mix with the national team.”