Heather Garriock: Acting for the good of the game

Heather Garriock

Heather Garriock, the former Matildas midfielder, is the proud holder of 130 Caps for her country and as she looks back at her extensive career in playing, coaching and mentoring, she faces her biggest challenge to date in attempting to make a difference on the Board of Football Australia (FA) which she was appointed to in September, 2021.

After the success of the Women’s World Cup, when the Matildas became the talk of the nation, it would be easy to say that football in Australia had finally arrived on the map.

However, acceptance for the game has never been that simple and despite the impetus generated in women’s participation numbers since the World Cup and some excellent attendances at the A-League Women’s matches this season, the A-League Men’s competition is struggling.

On the football field, Garriock always accepted a challenge and she is determined in her role on the FA Board to make a difference.

In this interview with Roger Sleeman, Heather Garriock discusses her early career in football before she rose to the top, the meaning of being a Matilda, how she contributes to the continuing growth of the women’s game, her involvement on the board of the F.A. and the role of past players.

ROGER SLEEMAN

When was your introduction to football?

HEATHER GARRIOCK

My Dad was a Scotsman who played semi-professional football and was a fanatical Hearts supporter.

I started playing as a six year old at Leppington Lions and lived and breathed the game into primary school when I was selected in the NSW Primary Schools squad.

Eventually, I was chosen in the first NSW women’s public school team from 250 triallists.

R.S.

What was your progression from there?

H.G.

I attended Westfield Sports High School and also participated in the NSW Institute of Sport from 13-14 years old where I was coached by Connie Selby, 3-4 nights a week.

I was in the state teams and played under Jean-Paul de Marigny who reckoned I had a bad attitude so I left to play in Marconi Reserves.

While at the club, I was privileged to witness the feats of Craig Foster, Andy Harper and Francis Awaritefe.

On leaving school at the end of year 10, I went to the AIS where I was coached by Chris Tansey and in the same year became the top scorer and player of the year at Marconi.

Ultimately, my winning mentality and strength of character was rewarded when I was selected for my first Matildas appearance against China in October, 1999.

R.S.

Can you describe your early journey with the Matildas?

H.G.

Early in my experience, we had tough coaches like Chris Tansey and Adrian Santrac but fortunately when Tom Sermanni took over the reins, things changed completely.

Tom was able to get the best out of me and I loved playing for him.

R.S.

How much has women’s football changed since you first played at a senior level?

H.G.

I still can’t believe how the women’s game has grown so much, but I am proud to say I was part of the pioneer movement which worked so hard to pave the way for future generations to excel in the sport.

R.S.

How do you rate the standard of the current Matildas with those playing in your time?

H.G.

It’s hard to compare eras because we were part timers, unlike so many of the current players who play full-time overseas.

The game is also quicker and players are in some cases playing 50-60 games a year.

However, from my era, players of the quality of Cheryl Salisbury, Di Alagich, Joey Peters, Lisa de Vanna and Julie Murray had that X-factor and would perform in any company.

R.S.

What is your opinion of the A-League Women’s competition?

H.G.

While the established Matildas are playing overseas at big clubs which has left a void, our young players are getting the opportunity to  compete at the highest level in Australia.

Also, their local experience has been highly beneficial to the Young Matildas who are improving rapidly in international competition and the recent defeat of China was a testimony to this.

Furthermore, as the professionalism of the league improves, so will the quality of players.

R.S.

After the success of the Women’s World Cup, why hasn’t that success been capitalised on by infiltrating the business world to back the game?

H.G.

On the contrary, the Matilda’s brand is one of the strongest in Australian sport, superseding the Socceroos.

However, it’s not a competition between the two because we need both to be strong.

R.S.

You were appointed to the FA Board in September, 2021.

What is your role and what have you achieved in this time period?

H.G.

In this time, I’ve been involved in improving the lot of the Matildas, e.g. the collective bargaining process which has led to equal pay conditions with the men.

Also, I’m involved with overseeing the technical development, development pathways, junior national teams and focusing on the history of the game.

The success of integrating the former Matildas into the World Cup experience was a great achievement and we’ve had so much feedback about how they felt so accepted during the event.

R.S.

How do you rate the current FA Board’s ability to turn the future of the game around?

H.G.

We have a new team with new leadership in Chairman Anter Isaac, who has been in the game for many years and is determined to take the game to a new level.

The game has to be united with a top to bottom approach, with particular emphasis on working with the stakeholders and the member federations.

R.S.

Why can’t more opportunity be provided to former players from the women’s and men’s game to contribute their expertise, rather than non football people dominating the sport?

H.G.

This is a fair point to action and we must identify what they can contribute so the game benefits and becomes stronger in all areas.

Recently, we discussed the appointment of talent scouts to scour the country for the very best young players.

Obviously, there are many other areas they can be utilised.

Central Coast Mariners academy even stronger with top-tier Portuguese side

Central Coast Mariners announced a partnership with Liga Portugal club Portimonense SAD.

The club, which now competes in the Portuguese first division, has a long history of generating top-tier players via both its academy and first-team programmes.

This collaboration is intended to mutually benefit young development for both teams, as well as general progress for Portimonense and the Mariners, making it a strategically smart move from Mariners who also have a history of producing young talent.

The contract would allow prospective Central Coast players to transfer into Portuguese first division football, one of Europe’s best divisions, while the Mariners will receive access to outstanding players from Portimonense SAD to enhance their team.

This has already begun with Mariners signing Ronald Barcellos on loan, with the goal of assisting both teams in their respective divisions while also allowing our players to continue their football growth.

Central Coast Mariners’ Sporting Director Matt Simon is eager to be working with Portimonense.

“To be able to work closely with a club of Portimonense’s pedigree is extremely exciting and an opportunity that we are greatly looking forward to,” he said via press release.

“We are clubs who see youth development as extremely important and to be able to work together on this will only benefit us both.”

Central Coast Mariners Chairman Richard Peil also commented on the partnership outlining the importance of the alliance.

“We’d love to own a network of clubs to be able to help players progress their careers and maximise their value, but that is just not realistic,” he stated via press release.

“This is the next best thing. The relationship with Portimonense is an important step in our progression to becoming a self-funding football club.”

Officials from Portimonense’s elite coaching squad are scheduled to visit the Central Coast Mariners Centre of Excellence this month (February) to begin work on the relationship.

Brisbane Roar sign deal with VERVE Fitness to focus on player development

Brisbane Roar announced a two-year partnership with Queensland-based fitness equipment company, VERVE, which will aim to invest in the club’s athlete development programs.

VERVE Fitness is a 100% Australian owned company run by athletes, designing premium equipment tested by athletes to help athletes perform at their best. The company’s ethos is to provide an excellent standard of fitness equipment that has been tested by athletes to ensure peak performance.

The partnership is a significant one with the cornerstone of the deal being the development of the VERVE Performance Centre which is being constructed at Brisbane Roar’s new Brendale training facility – to be ready in time for the 2024/25 season.. This new centre aims to be a hub for the club’s men’s and women’s team to train, using only the best fitness resources in order to help achieve on-field success.

VERVE and the Roar are focusing on putting significant investment into the future of sports training and athlete development. Both organisations have similar values in their views of the importance in athlete development as well as the growth of the grassroots game.

VERVE are making plenty of effort to play their part in improving the qualities of gyms in the league. The fitness equipment company also have an active partnership with Western United as the ‘Official Gym Partner’ and similarly are helping the Victorian-based club by providing state-of-the-art training facilities in their new $2 billion sport focused suburb project.

In this collaboration, VERVE Fitness will play a vital role in supporting Brisbane Roar’s NPL teams. As a result of this commitment, the VERVE logo will be featured on the back of Brisbane Roar’s NPL and u23 team jerseys for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. This visibility puts VERVE’s commitment to sports development at both the grassroots and professional levels on display.

Brisbane Roar COO, Zac Anderson, discussed the alignment in the values of both parties.

“This collaboration with VERVE Fitness is a significant step for Brisbane Roar. It aligns perfectly with our vision of fostering talent and delivering best-in-class facilities to our athletes. The VERVE Performance Centre will be a game-changer in our training capabilities.” Anderson said in a club statement.

VERVE CEO Nial Wogan mentioned the company’s focus on the launch of the new performance centre for the Roar and providing elite fitness resources for the players.

“Today marks a significant milestone in VERVE’s journey as we announce our partnership with Brisbane Roar FC, solidifying our commitment to excellence in sports performance and community,” Wogan added via media release.

“The launch of the ‘VERVE Performance Centre’ symbolizes not just a collaboration but a homecoming for the Brisbane Roar, embodying our shared dedication to reaching new heights. Over the 2024 and 2025 seasons, both organizations will synergize our expertise to empower athletes and redefine what’s possible.”

VERVE Fitness added to existing A-Leagues deals, previously teaming up with Western Melbourne Group and Central Coast Mariners.

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