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.

Football Australia appoint financial expert Caroline Veitch

Asta

Football Australia confirm Caroline Veitch will become the new Chief Financial Officer.

Caroline, with over 20 years of experience in consumer-facing organizations, will join CEO James Johnson’s Executive Leadership Team.

Veitch has held senior executive roles at Lion, KPMG, and Endeavour Group, leading high-performing finance teams. Her extensive career in finance is complemented by her expertise in strategy, consulting, change management, and HR.

Her distinctive blend of commercial and corporate experiences, coupled with her capacity to achieve results, enact change, and advance strategy through collaborative efforts across functions, positions her as a natural and compelling leader.

James Johnson, CEO of Football Australia, expressed his enthusiasm for Veitch’s appointment.

“We are thrilled to welcome Caroline Veitch to Football Australia. Her wealth of experience and proven track record in leading finance functions, business transformation, embedding commercial and financial rigour and balancing short- and long-term priorities will be invaluable as we continue to grow and strengthen our organisation,” he said in a statement.

“Caroline’s strategic mindset and leadership skills will be a tremendous asset to our executive team and the broader football community.”

Caroline Veitch shared her excitement about joining Football Australia.

“I am absolutely delighted to take on the role of Chief Financial Officer of Football Australia. Football’s ability to bring people together is unparalleled, and I am excited to work alongside the many different facets of the football community in Australia. Football has a very bright future in Australia and I’m looking forward to being part of shaping that, ensuring that the sport continues to thrive,” she said in a statement.”

Veitch’s appointment marks a significant step forward for Football Australia as the organisation continues to build on its commitment to excellence and innovation in Australian football.

As a female leader it’s important for Veitich to utilise the popularity of the women’s game and the new projected $200m TV deal to build a good financial foundation that invests at all levels.

The Play Our Way grant amongst the local government grants helping grassroots football are only the first step in creating a sustainable base for the sport.

Veitch will be commencing her role on the 26th of August 2024.

Football Australia holds its 21st Annual General Meeting

The twenty-first AGM of Football Australia Limited was held on Thursday, 30 May 2024, at Football South Australia’s offices at ServiceFM Stadium via videoconference and in Adelaide.

The AGM coincided with the release of the Football Australia 2023 Abridged Annual Review.

At the AGM, members reviewed Football Australia’s Financial Report, which uniquely covered the six months ending 31 December 2023.

This transition period followed Football Australia’s shift to a calendar-based financial year, aligning financial reporting with the operational season. Members also reviewed the FY24 Annual Budget and discussed the organisation’s activities during this period.

The Operating Surplus (Before Grants and Distributions) was at an all-time low for the FA between June 2023 and December 2023, with the value at $6.1m loss.

Interestingly, the report showed that $27.7m in total was invested amongst the national teams, with the Matildas getting the bulk of it at $13.45m. Socceroos were given $6.3mil and the rest was shared amongst National Teams support, Women’s and Men’s junior national teams.

An election for a Director position on the Football Australia Board was conducted as per the Constitution. Mr. Joseph Carrozzi AM, nominated by Football South Australia and seconded by Northern New South Wales Football, was re-elected for a term ending at the 2027 AGM.

Additionally, the meeting ratified Dr. Deidre Anderson AM as a member and Chair of the Women’s Football Council, an appointment that received unanimous support.

Following the AGM, the Board convened and unanimously re-elected Mr. Anter Isaac as Chairman and Ms Jaclyn Lee-Joe as Deputy Chair. Chairman Isaac shared his vision for the strategic direction and future ambitions of Football Australia.

“I am delighted to congratulate Joseph Carrozzi on his re-election to the Board, and I warmly welcome Deidre Anderson as a Member and new Chair of the Women’s Football Council,” said Mr. Isaac in his statement.

“Their collective expertise and dedicated leadership are pivotal as we continue to drive our strategic vision and foster growth across all levels of Australian football.

“In my inaugural Chairman’s Report, I am heartened by the transformative journey we’ve embarked on since November 2023. The past six months have been crucial in setting our strategic direction toward sustainability and growth at all levels.

“Our Board has pivoted from short-term, transactional thinking to embrace a strategic, long-term vision, fostering a culture where trust, capability, and capacity thrive.

“This shift is supported by substantial investments in our systems and processes, aligning our operations more closely with the football season to enhance efficiencies. Moreover, strategic appointments like that of Gary Moretti as Head of National Teams underscore our commitment to improving performance and leadership.

“Looking ahead, we are committed to fostering collaboration and unity, essential for the long-term success and growth of Australian football.

“We aim to maintain a formidable, stable, and dependable presence, both locally and internationally.”

The Financial report and statements by the board members suggest the FA are looking to strategically fund the national teams and build off the success of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup that saw the Matildas and Women’s football get majority of the investment.

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