More game time is the goal for young midfielder.
A year can be a long time in football. This time twelve months ago Grace Maher, the bright-eyed Australian U17 midfielder, was named and selected as one of the youngest players ever in the Canberra United squad going onto make a starring appearance in the Westfield W-League Grand Final victory over Perth Glory. A few months on and Maher continues to learn her trade but Season 8 as seen her struggling for game time.
Without experiencing the taste and thrill of being in the starting eleven, it’s hard to know the low of being left out of the squad. The youngster came from a position where she was chosen at age 15 to represent Australia gaining game time with three appearances out of three on the Malaysian tour. “Our first game was against Vietnam where I scored one in the six nil win, then we had the Hong Kong game which we won 10 nil and I was the Captain. With our last game against South Korea I didn’t start but I came on in the 70th minute,” Maher mentioned.
However, the youngster confessed she wasn’t prepared mentally for the uphill challenge ahead of the new Westfield W-League season. “I had no idea what the struggles, highs and lows I would have and that would come from being in the team,” she commented.
The preparation for matchday – training, practising, analysing – during the week sets a player up for the ninety minutes on the weekend and, if you aren’t selected in the game-day squad, there can be a crushing disappointment. But it’s something that every footballer must experience in order to understand the psychological strains that accompany playing at the highest level.
“As a player game day is the thing you look forward to the most,” Maher admitted. “It can be really hard mentally therefore to be told you won’t be playing. But it just makes you more determined than ever to prove that you are worthy of a place in the starting eleven. I continue to practice hard and hopefully will get my reward. Although it’s hard missing out, when you do find yourself in the starting team it’s something you can’t buy and I’m ready for when it happens.”
The role her family has played during the past few months has given Maher greater perspective to refresh her approach to this scenario. “My parents have helped me the most, they have been supportive to see the future and the brighter side that I still have a long career ahead,” Maher said.
Maher continues to work on her game day-in-day-out hoping for that next big break into the starting eleven and to put the hard work put in during the week out onto the pitch in front a vibrant crowd all getting behind and supporting Canberra United. The youngster has tactical goals as well and takes the sparkling FC Barcelona forward, Neymar, as a role model saying “whenever he has the ball he looks dangerous and I want to be one of those players that takes risks and tries something new.”
For Maher the future is bright. And while the burning ambition is to get on the field during the current Westfield W-League season the youngster is committed enough to her chosen path to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“It means a lot to be at Canberra United,” she said. “I remind myself how lucky I am and grateful for this opportunity to play at Canberra United every day. Rae [Dower] is a really good coach and she keeps telling me to hang in there and at this club it doesn’t matter if you’re a substitute or in the starting team you all get treated really well. I’m only young and I know I’m not a Veronica Perez yet but all I can do is focus on my game and be prepared for when the next opportunity is presented.”
Canberra United hosts Adelaide United on Saturday 12th December at McKellar Park with kick-off at 4pm. Gates open at 3pm and tickets can be purchased at the venue.