In the second part of her interview, Lisa De Vanna talks about her time with the national team, the W-League and her future in football.
SS: What is your most favourite memory as a Matilda?
LD: Right now, I have three of which I cannot avoid mentioning. The last 5 minutes of the game against Cananda in the 2007 FIFA World Cup, I think I felt every emotion possible in that short amount of time. In a matter of minutes, I went from feeling our World Cup dream was over, to being the proudest person alive!
All I remember was being one goal down, feeling disorientated and disbelief in the prospect of moving forward. It took a great leader, a captain, a friend, it took Cheryl (Salisbury) to bring that spark of belief.
Time was ticking she turned to me with passion in her eyes and told me not to give up and that we must fight every last minute. So I snapped out of it. I was inspired, so I ran. Somehow I had the ball at my feet and passed it through to Cheryl to score the equaliser! That goal meant we were in our first ever World Cup quarter final.
Everything seemed like it was slow motion. I couldn’t believe what just happened. I was in such shock and so overwhelmed, we all were. It’s those exact moments you live for. That game change women’s football in Australia.
SECOND HIGHLIGHT: vs Japan.
Because of my stubbornness in the game beforehand, I had broke my ankle and I couldn’t play in the most important game in our quest to qualify for the 2011 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
I remember my good friend and ‘slave’ for the week Katie Gill left me a note in my room the morning of the game, promising that we’d qualify for the World Cup. She stood by her words. She scored and got us to the World Cup.
Watching that game and not being able to contribute was more painful then my throbbing leg. Katie scored just before half time. The second half started slow, but to see the fighting spirit of the girls to the very end was unbelievable. Bubs was pulling off unbelievable saves. The defense putting there body on the line, midfielders running back forth side to side… strikers coming all the way back to help defend, everyone was digging so deep.
Japan did hit the post a few times, luck could have been on our side too. The relief I felt when that whistle blew, it had me in tears. The girls showed a lot of heart in that game. The words “Never Say Die” rang true in that game.
THIRD HIGHLIGHT: Sarah Walsh’s retirement game
Having to play my final game with Sarah was one of the toughest things I’ve done… For most of my international career, her and I have been a combination up front. We have experienced a lot together, its been our combined speed that had many teams frightened of our attack. I’ve shared every emotion, from the greatest to the lowest. To say goodbye after almost 10 years together was the saddest moment of my football career.
SS: In your eyes, since your involvement with the national team, how much have the Matildas improved? In what area’s specifically?
LD: The team has improved significantly over time. There has been some great young players coming through and the depth of the squad is stronger and that’s what you want in a team, players constantly pushing each other. No one can be complacent in their position anymore.
We have our experienced players like Bubs, Kate Gill, Polks, Collette and Heather Garriock who we need to lead the team and keep that cohesion. Heather for me has been the heart of the team.
Then we have young players like Steph Catley, Emily Van Egmond, Tameka Butt and Caitlin Foord who have really impressed me and have so much potential. We have a good balance with youth and experience. We probably lacked youth in the past and haven’t valued experience highly enough over the last couple of years, but with Hesterine’s arrival I think we will have a good mix of both moving forward.
SS: Speaking of Hesterine, since her appointment I’ve noticed from afar you have really embraced the change. What are you looking forward to most about the appointment of a new coach?
LD: Tommy has been my national coach for my entire career and changes can be scary. He has been a big influence in my career as well as my teammates. There does come a point when we all need new challenges, I am trying to embrace it.
So far what I like about Hesterine is that she is very straightforward, things are black and white. She has already made some big changes and introduced a different philosophy, commitment for me now is the key, for all of us. With such a young squad it’s important to have structure and discipline. Right now, it is about trusting the process and I trust that she will do her part and so will we in achieving our goals.
SS: When can we expect you back in Australia? Do you intend on playing in the Westfield W-League?
LD: I’m not sure when I’ll be home. Depending on how well we do over here in the US. I’m not sure yet where I’ll be playing W-League… If my sister buys me a puppy then I’m sold, I’ll move to Melbourne [laughs]. But you know the saying there no place like home and Perth is home. So I’ll see how I feel after this season!!
SS: I don’t think I have ever asked you Lisa, how did you first get involved with football?
LD: I began at a very young age, it was my brother (who is 10 years older) who introduced me to football. I grew up in a very multi-cultural neighbourhood, I played with the boys every day, it was like our ritual.
My brother was never easy on me or anyone come to think of it, he was ruthless. He didn’t like to lose and he would have no sympathy toward me if i got taken out. I was treated like one of the boys, which taught me to get up and deal with it. To this day I believe this is why I’m such a battler. My feistiness and aggressive nature as a player has come from him.
SS: At what age did you discover the Matildas? At this age did you want to become one? OR did it just happen…
LD: I knew I wanted to play football and go as far as I could with it. However it wasn’t until Chez (Cheryl Salisbury) approached me after being awarded the MVP in the school girls tournament. She shared with me that she had won the award before, she then went on to say “I’ve seen you play, you will play for the Matildas one day.”
We didn’t have Google back then so I couldn’t search for the ‘Matildas’. One of my teammates approached me and said “I can’t believe Cheryl just spoke to you, you know she plays for Australia!”
I then realised what that conversation between Chez and I meant. From that day on I made it my goal to play for the Matildas and I’d do whatever it took to get there. A lot of sacrifice, but no regrets.
SS: You have a very close relationship to your family. Do you miss them when you travel so much?
LD: Yes of course. I am a very family orientated person. I really do miss my Mummy, Connie and especially my two nieces. I have a very strong relationship with my younger sister, Sonya…and every time I leave she is the one I miss the most…
I know in this day and age technology makes it much easier, which helps. But one thing you can’t replace is birthdays, Easter, best friend engagements, nieces little milestones… From their 1st birthday party to their first day of school. Things like that make you really miss home.
This lifestyle we lead, can be very challenging. I never know where I am going to be. Bad days can lead you towards thinking why its all worth it, but then other days, you wake up and it all seems worthwhile. I guess we’d all experience something such as this in life.
Football is what truly makes me happy. I am reminded everyday how special and unique this opportunity is. Although, one day it will be gone and football will only take me so far. All these things I think I miss now, won’t compare to what I’ve had. If that makes sense?
SS: As a current member of the Matildas squad, what would you like to achieve?
LD: Once that Australian shirt is on… EVERYTHING!
SS: I know this is quite broad Lisa, but I am curious…Where do you see yourself in five years time?
LD: Five years? Wow. That is a tough one Sal. I don’t even know know what I’m going to be doing in three months time, let alone five years. I will most probably be retired. That all depends if I can push for the FIFA World Cup to be held in Australia in 2019? (Not yet confirmed- But how fingers crossed). Then I’d consider pushing this old body through in order to play on home soil. That would be amazing.
If not maybe work my way up to be a manager at a shell petrol station [laughs]. In all honestly, it ready depends. I wouldn’t mind working with troubled youths or abuse victims, that sounds pretty hard core - but it’s an area where I believe I could make a difference. What I would love is a family of my own and have a “normal” life.
SS: And finally Lisa, before I let you go…What kind of advice would you provide to a young girl aspiring to play for their country?
LD: Dedication and commitment is the key, focusing on football and not having too many other distractions. Balance is good, but you really have to commit if you want to make it in the footballing world. That is if you want to play for Australia.