Player Profile: Emily Gielnik's lifelong Olympic dream

Emily Gielnik has been to a FIFA Women’s World Cup and an AFC Women’s Asian Cup and can now finally add the Olympics to her resume.

Her career is defined by perseverance and grit. Born in Melbourne, Gielnik grew up in Queensland playing a different kind of round ball sport: basketball. Injuries saw her eventually pick up football at age 12.

She played her junior football at Redlands United. Current Junior Matildas coach and Football Australia Women’s Technical Advisor Rae Dower was the Technical Director at the club when Gielnik was there.

Despite making the Queensland squad for the National Championships, Gielnik didn’t make it into the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) team.

She would end up in the QAS team eventually, thanks to a school trip to Canberra where she took part in a Matildas training session at the AIS under then-coach Tom Sermanni.

Sermanni suggested Gielnik to the QAS coach at the time, Jeff Hopkins, who would go on to work with Gielnik in the W-League at Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory.

Gielnik’s domestic career mirrored that of her national team one. A strong season in orange saw her earn the ‘super sub’ tag where she helped the Roar make a grand final. Later in 2012, she made her senior national team debut against Japan at the age of 20.

But after breaking into the national team, she spent some time away from the W-League and the Matildas.

She explored passions outside football and opened a gym, working on her own fitness and helping others. Fitness is still something that interests her as she is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Exercise Science alongside club and country teammate Clare Polkinghorne.

Gielnik worked hard to get back onto the national team radar. While she didn’t make the squad for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, she was a part of the team which qualified for the Rio Olympics the following year.

The forward scored her first national team goal in that tournament in a 9-0 win over Vietnam.

However, with plenty of talent and a small squad, Gielnik didn’t make the final cut. Instead, she travelled as an alternate player.

At the time, Gielnik said her omission left her genuinely heartbroken and described it as the biggest emotional toll football had ever taken on her.

Following on from being so close to selection, Gielnik moved to Norway before linking back up with Jeff Hopkins, this time at Melbourne Victory in the W-League.

A ‘feel good, play well’ kind of player, Gielnik returned to the national team fold and began to cement herself in the team, adding more goals to her tally.

She was selected to go to Jordan in 2018 for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup and to France in 2019 where she played in three of Australia’s four matches.

A move to German giants Bayern Munich saw her learn plenty about herself but she returned to Scandinavia and the W-League once again.

A scintillating 2020-21 season with Brisbane Roar saw Gielnik take home the golden boot before she signed for Vittsjö in Sweden. With 10 goals in 42 games for her country, the determined and dedicated Gielnik is inching ever close to half a century of caps.

A strong presence with the ability to play on the wing and more centrally, Gielnik is an invaluable asset to the Matildas in Tokyo.