The Matildas touched down in Jordan last week, with the squad hitting their straps with the aim of adding a second AFC Women’s Asian Cup to their trophy cabinet.
Football Queensland journalist Chloe Walker spoke with Matildas and Brisbane Roar striker Emily Gielnik about her road to Jordan.
The shoe fits! Like Cinderella it was a race against the clock for Australian football player Emily Gielnik, but she has managed to escape the confines of her moonboot, trading Velcro straps for leather lace-ups just in time to make the Matildas squad for the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Jordan. Moments before boarding her plane to Portugal for the 2018 Algarve Cup in early March, Gielnik received news that the excruciating pain in her ankle was a result of bone stress. She says it was a blessing in disguise as any further strain would have caused a fracture, sidelining the Matildas forward for 3-6 months. With a grueling strength and conditioning program combined with some TLC, Gielnik has beaten the odds and found her happily ever after in the Australian squad.
Gielnik says her most recent injury is the result of a prior ankle fracture following one of the biggest performances that sparked her professional career in 2012. Gielnik made her debut for the Young Matildas in the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup qualifier against Vietnam scoring a hat-trick and changing the game for the green and gold, from three goals down to a 4-3 win. She says however, an evolution in her career has occurred more recently, coincidently in last year’s Algarve Cup, scoring three goals during the tournament against big name teams including China and The Netherlands.
“It was a turning point for me not just scoring the goals but having a good tournament and the realisation that I wanted to do it (football) full-time and take it more seriously,” Gielnik says.
Gielnik, 25, was a late bloomer to the sport at age 12 when she began playing for Redlands United, already setting her sights high towards Brisbane Roar and Young Matildas. She says her pathway into the sport was quite different to others as it happened during a school trip to the Australian Institute of Sport where the Matildas were holding a training session.
“It was actually my sports teacher who asked the coach at the time, Tom Sermanni, if I could have a session with them,” She says.
“He (Sermanni) asked me to come back the next day and I played a game with them. Straight away he made the call to get me into the QAS (Queensland Academy of Sport) with Jeff Hopkins who was the head coach at the time.”
Gielnik’s professional football career began with the Brisbane Roar in 2009 where she later was dubbed the super-sub coming off the bench time and time again to score 12 goals in 2011-12 season.
“I got second highest goal scorer for that year and I only played 5-10 minutes every game,” She says.
“There was a lot of pressure to keep going on and scoring but it actually just kept happening.”
Having recently finished her eighth season loyal to her club, Gielnik is eager to go all the way with Brisbane Roar after they were knocked out in a devastating loss in Westfield W-League semi-final despite finishing minor premiers.
“So we didn’t win and that’s just football; in the most important games any team can win on any given day and unfortunately it wasn’t us.”
However, Gielnik’s season never ends with W-League. Throughout her career she has ventured to international clubs including Liverpool, Ottawa Fury in Canada, Urawa Red Diamonds in Japan and Avaldsnes IL in Norway. She says although the style of play differs from place to place, the W-league provides a high standard of football.
“I don’t think we are far behind and sometimes I think we are a little bit ahead. Now we are starting to attract international big names as well as those in the American league coming over to play W-League.”
Despite the W-League producing strong competition Gielnik says women’s football has a lot of catching up to do in the male oriented sport but it is growing every year. She says Brisbane Roar is already contributing to that growth by including the young Roar girls under-17s team to compete in the NPL Queensland Women’s competition.
“I think it is a foot in the door for the girls to be exposed.”
She says the biggest issue is the lack of opportunities for exposure and is why Brisbane Roar are trying to provide a platform for youth girls teams as young as 13-14.
“I think it needs a bit of work (the football pathway) but its heading in the right direction, so it’s a positive.”
She says her biggest advice to young up and comers is to be doing extra work outside of training.
“Those willing to work a bit hard will be rewarded in the end.”
On top of her already busy schedule Gielnik also holds private coaching for girls that she believes are quite talented, this is on top of owning her own strength and condition gym ShedEm, teaching 16 classes a week.
Being selected to play for the green and gold in the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup has crossed one goal off Gielnik’s list and if all goes well she is eager to compete in 2018 Tournament of Nations in the US after Matildas won the major competition last year putting them on the map.
The Matildas kick-off their Asian Cup campaign in Jordan on Sunday, April 8.
Australia’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup group stage fixtures
Australia | v | Korea Republic
April 8 | King Abdullah Stadium II, Amman, Jordan.
Kick-off: 3.00am (EST) Fox Sports
Vietnam | v | Australia
April 11 | Amman International Stadium, Amman, Jordan
Kick-off: 3.00am (EST) Fox Sport
Japan | v | Australia
April 13 | Amman International Stadium, Amman, Jordan.
Kick-off: 11:45pm (EST) on Fox Sports
2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup groups
Group A: Jordan (Current FIFA world ranking: 50), China PR (13), Thailand (29), Philippines (70)
Group B: Japan (8), Australia (6), Korea Republic (15), Vietnam (31)
Lydia Williams (GK), Caitlin Cooper, Aivi Luik, Clare Polkinghorne, Laura Alleway, Chloe Logarzo, Steph Catley, Elise Kellond-Knight, Alex Chidiac, Emily van Egmond, Lisa de Vanna, Casey Dumont (GK, Tameka Butt, Alanna Kennedy, Emily Gielnik, Hayley Raso, Kyah Simon, Mackenzie Arnold (GK), Katrina Gorry, Sam Kerr, Ellie Carpenter, Larissa Crummer, Michelle Heyman.