The moment that still makes Jenna McCormick feel "lucky"
If six years ago you had told Westfield Matildas’ defender Jenna McCormick that she would represent her country, she wouldn’t have believed you.
All it took was a photo.
As the 25-year-old took a deep breath on the Westfield Matildas Zoom Sessions, the memories of her international debut came flooding back.
To say it was a moment years in the making would not be strictly true. The reality is that it was only until recently that the South Australian felt being a Westfield Matilda was remotely possible.
Walking onto the Bankwest Stadium pitch in front of a record Westfield Matildas crowd, the national anthem took on special significance.
It wasn’t that she never sung it before in front of a big crowd, she had in the AFLW, but it was nothing compared to the feeling of singing while wearing the green and gold guernsey.
“I've never been able to sing my national anthem for my country,” McCormick said.
“I just made so many decisions and sacrifices and put myself in the driving seat in so many instances that got me there.
I just wanted to appreciate being able to sing that song. Being able to represent my country in this sport of football, because I didn't know whether I’d get that chance again.”
Apart from that one moment, on the biggest day of her football career at that time, McCormick was able to keep the emotions in check during the match against Chile.
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A match that, if asked, she could recount to anyone the 90 minutes of play - over and over.
“I was just bottling it up for so long that it just all came out at the end, but it was such a fun game and pretty much the whole 90 minutes [is] in my head,” she said.
Jenna McCormick will tell you herself that her story is one of persistence but also one where seemingly unrelated decisions led to that one destination.
Playing for Adelaide United as a 19-year-old, McCormick never believed her efforts would ever be good enough to secure her a spot playing for Australia.
Despite winning the Player of the Year Award for the 2013/14 Westfield W-League season, she was instead filled with self-doubt and a constant questioning of whether in fact she could play football.
Those messages of doubt became louder after a disastrous stint in Norway in 2017. Following that season, the defender looked to try one more season with Brisbane Roar in the Westfield W-League before walking away from football.
“Basically, for me it was ‘I’m done. I don’t want to play it.’” McCormick remembered. “[However] that decision to go to Brisbane, little did I know at the time, was going to be the game changer for me.”
I found my passion for the game again. I found my love for the game and decided to play the full season from there.”
“I don’t think I really believed it [was possible to play for Australia] until I had that season in 2019 with Brisbane Roar.”
By the end of the year, the unexpected dream was a reality with her parents and siblings proudly watching in the stands.
In the Zoom Sessions, McCormick paid special tribute to the Westfield Matildas coaching staff and teammates for the way they made her feel like she belonged on her debut.
“I believe everything in your life happens for a reason because I wouldn't be standing there (against Chile) 100 per cent,” she said.
“The coaching staff had faith in me, and my teammates had my back and I felt this sense of belonging.”
The group made it a really special day for me and one that I will never forget ,and it was just so, so special for me to go through. I'm just really lucky that I can say that I have represented my country.”
Jenna McCormick now has a new dream on her bucket list - to be named as part of the Tokyo Olympics squad.
While the event may be delayed, she is planning to make the most of the time through training and, once COVID-19 restrictions ease globally, game time with an international club.
“I get a whole another year of potential involvements in international tours or to tour here on home soil or practise games and training camps,” she said.
I feel like I get more comfortable with how to handle it all and how to have myself prepared to be in a good position come selection time.”
But for now? Other than training and preparing for the Olympics, McCormick is working on recording and journaling a day that she admits she will never stop being emotional about.
“I really do need to sit down and journal [the Chile game] because I want to be able to look back on that when I'm 70 and read it,” she said.
“My memory’s probably not really that great so that is something that I'm going to do.”