With Australia fielding the third youngest team at Germany 2011, the experience and big-game know-how offered by Heather Garriock - a veteran of three FIFA Women’s World Cups - provides an important counter-balance in Tom Sermanni’s squad.
Aside from goalkeeper and captain Melissa Barbieri, Garriock is the only veteran of USA 2003 and, with a 120 caps on an impressive football resume, is by far Australia’s most experienced player. The national record of 151 appearances set by the iconic Cheryl Salisbury is slowing honing into view.
The imposing and lengthy career does not mean the Sydneysider is slowing down. At 28, the legs might be somewhat worn after 12 years as an international footballer, but Garriock has maintained the high-energy and dedication to the game for which she has been renowned throughout her career.
It is a career which has evolved considerably in the four-cycle since the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. In that time the left-sided midfielder, whose crossing and dead-ball delivery has provided countless international goals, played professionally across three of the world’s most elite leagues with USA’s Chicago Red Stars, Denmark’s Fortuna Hjorring and Malmo of Sweden. The skipper of 2010 national champions Sydney FC also has, injury absence aside, remained a constant in the Australia side despite a massive influx of new, mostly younger, faces.
Australia have been dealt a significant challenge at Germany 2011, pitted as they are alongside 2007 runners-up Brazil, 1995 winners Norway and African unknowns Equatorial Guinea. The Matildas open up their Germany 2011 campaign against Brazil – coincidentally the team they last played at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. On that occasion Brazil scored a 3-2 quarter-final victory en route to the 2007 final, although it took a couple of spectacular strikes to end the Aussie campaign at the quarter-final stage.
“This team is quite different to previous Australian teams,” Garriock said about the Matildas' class of 2011. “The depth we have now is significant compared to previously. We are also a lot more creative and dynamic players. The philosophy of the team has changed even though Tommy (Sermanni) is still in charge, which is great because he knows how to get the very best out of us.”
On a personal level, Garriock says that years of experience has allowed her to become a more rounded footballer, and one that is in tune with her own game. “I know a lot more about myself as a player compared to where I was at four years ago,” says the technically proficient Garriock. “One of the positives of getting older is that you learn more about yourself and your own capabilities. I’m also more relaxed going into the tournament because I know what to expect in a World Cup. Having played in multiple countries has exposed me to a variety of football and I have a learned and grown as a player at each club I have played at in recent years.”
So how does it feel having being a senior figure in a squad that contains seven teenagers with an average of 22. “If anything I feel more part of this team than ever before,” says the No7 known to her team-mates as H. “I don’t see myself as having a senior role particularly. I fit in as just another player and to tell the truth it works well for me. Having said that I do sometimes enjoy having the opportunity to pass on some knowledge and hopefully I can provide some helpful insights from time to time.”