Matildas defender Laura Alleway goes 1v1 with the PFA to share her of joy of qualifying for the Olympic games, the remarkable resolve of the Matildas, life with her new club Orlando Pride and much more.


Q. Last season you enjoyed an outstanding campaign with Melbourne City, how important was the set-up at the club in helping you to be at your best for the crucial Olympic Games Qualifiers?

LA: Our training environment was second to none in the W-League, given also that we had the class of Jess Fishlock and Kim Little, Jen Beattie so for preparation purposes we could not have been in a better place. To come off the back of winning every game in the season it is a pretty decent confidence booster and given there was a few of us Matildas in the team it was definitely good to take that mentality into the qualifiers.


Q. The build up seemed very gruelling, was this the case?

LA: I remember when we were in the thick of it thinking I hope this is all worthwhile, because it was definitely a super tough preparation. We had double sessions, backed up by games and fitness sessions, it was just one thing on top of another and we didn’t really have too many days off in the month leading into it but I guess you could say it paid off, so it was worth it in the long run.


Q. The first game against Japan you put in an outstanding team performance, did you sense that was coming from the first whistle?

LA: In the first 10 minutes of a game you can get a good feel of how you think it will go, obviously that can change, but we started so well and the momentum kept going and our confidence grew. We almost couldn’t believe we were putting the ball in the back of the net and we just kept gaining in confidence. To come out with a 3-1 win was pretty amazing.


Q. The games came thick and fast after that, how tough was it to keep backing up with very little rest?

LA: Knowing that we had such a tough a competition leading into it you sort of had time to prepare mentally for that. We were so determined to qualify this time round, we were like ‘there are no excuses.’ We knew the style Staj (Alen Stajic) wanted us to play, which was high press and high intensity so we knew it it would be tough on our bodies. We also knew we had an advantage on the other teams considering we had just come off our season and the other teams had been in the off season. We had also been playing in tough hot conditions and we were going into a colder one and that helped a lot. When you see the person next to you working their guts out to win the ball or win a header it gives you that drive and energy to keep going.


Q. It had been such a big build up the tournament that it would have been understandable for the pressure to take its toll, but that seemed to be far from the case. Did you feel any pressure or nervousness?

LA: The confidence and the belief in the team started back at the World Cup when we made it out of the so called group of death and to come up against Brazil and win that game, against the odds, I think our team as a whole started to believe in ourselves. Also like a said before, given the preparation we were put through we just had so much confidence in ourselves and it was just like ‘now is business time.’ We played out every possibility in our heads and once it got going we just wanted to keep doing well and stay on that high. It is not an easy thing to do but I think Staj managed the players well and we had some great leaders in the team.


Q. What was that moment like when you sealed qualification for the Olympics?

LA: It was surreal, it was emotional, it was a relief, it was so many things and I couldn’t stop crying, I could not believe it was happening. It is hard to put it into words and for days after I kept thinking ‘are we really going to the Olympics?’


Q. Often in football there is little time to reflect on your achievements, was this the case or did you get some time to savour it?

LA: I think we maybe had that night to let it sink in but we wanted to win the final game of the tournament. The next day Staj said to us ‘now its preparation time.’ Two days after making it we were in preparation mode.


Q. You returned home to a great reception, how much did that mean to the players?

LA: Everytime we go away for a tour we seem to come back and the fan base has grown. Even now being away, I see things being posted online, players on sunrise and we just seem to keep growing the support.


Q. Do you believe the support for women’s sport generally is on the rise?

LA: I have been in the W-League for eight seasons and I have seen huge growth there as well, and that is partly the result of the Matildas success and people want to get around them. The public has become much more aware of the Matildas and every Australian likes to see successful sporting teams and the Matildas are becoming one of the most successful ones.


Q. How important do you believe the new collective bargaining agreement was for your success?

LA: Having the support behind is a positive but I think the biggest benefit was how we stuck together as a group the bond between each player and the trust grew so much. I think that is the biggest thing that is showing on the field.


Q. You have recently joined Orlando Pirates, how are you settling into life in the USA?

LA: I had 10 days at home with the family before I left, which was great. I have been here for six weeks now and it feels like a home away from home. I share a house with Steph (Catley) and we also live with a fellow defender from Brazil. The weather is just like Queensland as well so that helps. Also having Tommy (Sermanni) as the coach has been great. We have a really unique team and I have been welcomed with open arms. We had our first home game of the season on the weekend and we broke the attendance record for the league, the supporters are crazy and awesome and they were super loud on the weekend and hopefully we can build on the weekend’s win.


Q. How has the transition from the W-League been?

LA: On the field it is a high tempo here, so you have to be super fit. In terms of professionalism City was leading the way back home and Orlando seems to be doing the same here. We are doing things like having meals together, our strips are washed for us, boots are brought to game they are little things but they all add to it. The common thread between Melbourne City and Orlando is the family feel to the club. The owners over here are brilliant, they flew to Portland with us for the first game, they were down on the pitch with us at the weekend crying after we won because they were so excited.


Q. Finally, it is just under 100 days to the Olympics, how excited are you for what lays ahead?  

LA: I’m not the kind of person to think that far in advance, if I did I would burn way too much nervous energy before I even get there. I’m just focusing on what I have to do here and getting fit, obviously in the back of my mind the goal is to be fully fit and 100% come August. It is hard not to get carried away but I’m trying not to get too excited just yet.
Each week the PFA will go 1v1 with a current or former player to gain an insight into the lives of footballers on and off the pitch.

Image by Chad Gibson / Local FC.