ONE former Mount Gambier soccer player’s Olympic dream has been put on hold for another 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jenna McCormick donned the green and gold of the Matildas in this year’s Olympic qualifiers, where she joined the team to eventually earn selection for Tokyo 2020.
However, with the announcement of the Olympic games being pushed back a year due to the health crisis, the 25-year-old former Blue Lake Soccer Club player has had to press pause on her childhood dream for now.
McCormick spoke to The Border Watch last week and said the qualifiers – which wrapped up with Australia’s women’s team booking its fourth ever Olympic appearance with a win against Vietnam – were a great experience.
“It was a good trip away and obviously very successful,” she said.
“At the time we thought we were heading off to Tokyo this year, but obviously that has been postponed.
“It is a little bit disappointing considering what we had lined up for our preparation, but it is obviously the right thing to do.”
McCormick’s experience with the Matildas started in November last year, where she made her debut against Chile.
Since then she was named in the final Olympic qualifier team and has lived out her soccer fantasy.
However, it is an experience she has not taken for granted.
“Every time I have an opportunity to train or go away with the national team it is another learning moment for me,” McCormick said.
“I am learning every time I am involved and have something new to handle.
“It is a lot mentally to be at that level and performing with all those high expectations day in, day out.”
She said her journey with the Matildas so far has opened her eyes to the top tier of the game and she has soaked up the opportunity to develop as a player.
“I think the Vietnam trip was really good for me, I learnt a lot and it was good to travel overseas with the group – I had never done that before,” she said.
“I feel like I formed some good bonds.
“That is another aspect of it too that people do not really think about – I knew all of the girls going in, but had never met them and had only really played against them.”
The Matildas’ Olympic qualification came to a head against Vietnam, with the first leg held on home territory in Newcastle, before a trip abroad for the second match.
That game in the city of Cam Pha was played with no crowd due to the coronavirus restrictions at the time, which McCormick said was a “different” experience.
“It was a little bit weird – the vibe was rather strange,” she said.
“But we as a group got through it and professionally we had a job to do, so we went there and had the mind-set of just getting the job done.
“It was certainly a little bit different with no crowds, but it would have been their crowd anyway, so maybe it levelled out the playing field a little bit.”
McCormick is currently back home in Adelaide, where she continues to train individually to keep her skills and fitness sharp, ready for when players can return to the pitch.
“Obviously it puts a halt on the travel plans for this year – all of the group had plans to be playing overseas during this time to keep up our football match minutes,” she said.
“I think a couple of them are still in England and one in Sweden, but everyone else is here in Australia now.
“We are just training on our own and waiting until we can get back together as a group or make that travel overseas to join teams.”
Coming from a strong background of team sport, which includes a life-long involvement in soccer, as well a stint in the AFLW where she was a two-time premiership player with the Adelaide Crows, McCormick has found the solitude difficult at times.
“It is gruelling training on your own, which kind of sucks,” she said.
“It gets a bit monotonous and is the same every day.
“It is hard, but you just have to push through it and there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Despite the wait to represent her country on the Olympic stage, McCormick is opportunistic about the delay.
“If you look at it from the angle of you get another whole year to prepare and personally I get another year of experience at that level,” she said.
“I think it will be a real benefit for me.”