Heyman: "Being back out there was pure joy."

The 65th-minute of the CommBank Matildas Olympic Qualifying match against Uzbekistan was one for the history books, with Michelle Heyman making her return to the squad after almost six years and scoring a crucial first goal in the team's final hurdles toward Paris 2024. 

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It was a dream fulfilled for the 62-capped CommBank Matilda, whose last appearance was in November 2018, before announcing her retirement from National Team duty in 2019. 

"It really meant everything to me, it's hard to put it into words," Heyman expressed when asked how it felt to get back onto the pitch wearing the green and gold. 

"I've worked so hard over the last four years to try and get back on the field with these girls. I couldn't stop smiling when I was out there, it was just pure joy, like being a kid again. I really felt so happy."

The instructions from head coach Tony Gustavsson were simple, get out there and do what you do best. Heyman made an instant impact, teeing up Hayley Raso for a shot at goal before nodding in Australia's first of the night in the 72nd minute.

"I think that's one thing about being a game changer, you get to see what needs to be done to score some goals," Heyman explained when asked what her observations were from the bench.

"I could see the pockets and I knew what type of runs I needed to be making to try and get in behind. Getting on the field, I knew I was faster than them, so it gave me even more confidence. My main priority was to enjoy it. But, you know, put my best head forward and score a goal."

Heyman's goal was the opening the team needed to begin overcoming Uzbekistan, with Mary Fowler and Caitlin Foord netting goals in the 84th and 86th minutes respectively.

It was a full circle moment, with Heyman's last goal being at the 2016 Rio Olympics against Zimbabwe and her goal on Saturday evening bringing the CommBank Matildas one step closer to another chance at Olympic glory.

"I've been on a massive journey and I needed that time away," Heyman said on her absence from the National Team.

Michelle Heyman of Australia celebrates scoring her team's second goal with teammates during the AFC Women's Paris 2024 Olympic Qualifier Round 3 match between Uzbekistan and Australia Matildas at Milliy Stadium on February 24, 2024 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. (Photo by Tolib Kosimov/Getty Images)

Fans of the A-League Women's competition have been treated to 12 Heyman goals this season under Canberra United, but she explained that there's something special about doing it for your country and that wasn't more evident than during the team's incredible run at the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023

"Scoring is something that I love to do, so to be able to come back and get one in was a dream come true," she said.

"I remember sitting in the stands, watching the girls in the World Cup, and now to have the chance to play in front of my friends and family, it's going to be a surreal experience. I've never had many of my friends and family come to watch me play, so it would be really special.

"It just felt so nice to be able to do what I love with the girls that I love and play for my country. To be able to step onto that pitch with them and score the goal that kind of opened it all up for the rest of the team is just an incredible feeling. I feel so honored and proud to get a second chance."

The Canberran's presence was missed not only on the pitch but off it.

"Celebrating with the team was special, it was really nice. The girls all welcomed me back," she said. "It was beautiful to be able to share that moment and to see their joy for me because they knew the journey that I'd been on. They were extremely proud and it's really heartwarming to know that they're there and they support me."

A ticket to Paris is at the top of Heyman's list. Already an Olympian, she's been putting in the hard yards for several years to get herself back into a position where she can represent Australia at the Olympic Games.

"The Olympics mean a lot to every single athlete in the world. It's something that not a lot of people get to compete at so to be a part of it is a very special achievement," she said.

"I was lucky enough to be at the Rio 2016 Olympics and that is something that I talk about constantly because it was a big highlight of my career. That's what I want again, so I will be pushing to get into that team. 

"The hard work that I'm putting in to be a part of that squad is unbelievable," she continued. 

"It's taken me four years to just get back to this position and now I'm not letting it go. I will be doing everything possible to make sure that I'm in the best contention to make that team because this is what I want. It's what I dream of constantly. I'd feel very honored and grateful to be able to represent Team Australia again at the Olympics."

Australia v Uzbekistan
Date: Wednesday, 28 February 2024
Kick-off: 8.00 pm AEDT
Venue: Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, Victoria
Broadcast: Live from 7.30 pm AEDT on 10, 10 Bold in Perth, 10 Play and Paramount+.