Michelle Heyman's career is a story of connection
Michelle Heyman once again holds a piece of Westfield W-League history. With 72 goals to her name, and counting, her football story has benefited from the year she took off.
But her wider story, in football and life, is one of connection; the friendships, relationships, and bonds that fill our lives on and off the pitch.
It started in Shellharbour, NSW where a young Heyman was learning the rules of football.
“It was my first training session. And I played with my cousin and his team the Warilla Wanderers. And the coach realised that I was super fast. So he was like, we'll just play you as a forward.” Heyman recalled on the Westfield Matildas podcast.
“And I was like, Okay, what's the purpose, he's like, put the ball in the back of the net. It's that simple. Just run and get it.”
After a crash course in the offside rule, Heyman was playing with her cousin from ages nine to 16 until she was no longer allowed to play with the boys.
“We were very close. So that was super important for me. We grew up literally around the corner from each other, but went to two separate schools.”
"With football, we got an extra two days to hang out in the afternoon together. And you know, that means a lot to me. And it was something always that was really special.
“We had this great relationship from birth to you know, until a bad day happened and yeah, we lost him.”
Heyman still holds her cousin close to her, with a tattoo on her upper arm.
“This elephant represents him. Just because elephants stay as a pack. He is my family. He's my blood. And yeah, I always wanted him close. So kept him on the shoulder.” Heyman said.
The advent of the Westfield W-League gave Heyman a new place to play. She began her career with Sydney FC before moving to the Central Coast Mariners. There she found more people who would become like family.
The 2008-09 Westfield W-League season was a big one for Heyman and the Mariners. She would win the golden boot with 11 goals for the season.
The team would finish second, but bow out to eventual champions Sydney FC in the semi finals. It was the Mariners' last Westfield W-League season but the beginning of Heyman’s Westfield Matildas career.
“It was all about fun. That was me having fun and me just enjoying the game. From then on, that's when the pressure started. Because that's when I kind of got noticed. And that's when I joined the Matildas. That's when things started to change.”
Within that team, Heyman found friends who made her football fun. The group consisted of Heyman, Caitlin Cooper, Rachel Cooper, Jenna Kingsley, Samantha Spackman, and Alesha Clifford
“During that year at the Mariners, it was all about great friendships that I had with six of the players in the team, we became all best friends. We’re still really good friends to this day and built this beautiful relationship that made us quite successful." she remembered.
“We had this big relationship of turning into young adults with each other. But it was always fun. It was always positive. They're gonna always be great friends, even if I don't speak to them as much as I used to. They're still really important people to me. They're part of the journey which got me here.”
Heyman is synonymous with Canberra United but she only moved to the club in season three of the league. From there she solidified a spot in the Westfield Matildas and found her best friend – Katrina Gorry.
“Gosh, who would've thought that you'd meet a best friend within a team and be able to have this relationship? It feels like it's been 15 years. I know it hasn't been that long. But I feel like I've known her forever. But we just had this bond. And we just got on so well with each other."
“We are very similar and I think that's something that definitely helped both of us go through our Matildas journeys. And I couldn't even imagine doing it without her because of her full support. We always had each other's back.” Heyman recalled fondly.
Her relationship with Gorry is so important that Heyman ranks it as the best part of her Westfield Matildas journey.
“I think that's the most meaningful thing to be able to get a best friend. And do something we both love, play for our country and do it all together. And to share all those memories with each other and our families is something that I hold very close to my heart and think it's the best thing that's ever happened to me through the Matildas.”
Being supported and loved within a team has helped Heyman becomes the player she is, but it is the love and support she has found off the field which has arguably taken her game to another level.
“I think I've come back happier like people see me as they've always seen me as a happy smiley human. But it's more about that love that someone else has given me and that's from my partner, Christine.”
“She truly believes in me, supports me, and I think having that is something so special that I never really had as a player before, so I get it. Literally everything is off my shoulders out here, and I'm having so much fun for myself, for her, for my family. And it's the best thing that I've ever done. She's the best thing that's ever happened to me. And Frank [the dog].”
Michelle Heyman’s career is filled to the brim with goals and plenty of success at club level and for her country.
But it's a story that cannot be told without the connections she's made on and off the park.