No place like home for Harrison

Matilda Amy Harrison has aspirations to rejuvenate the Wanderers with an eye on a FIFA Women’s World Cup role after two years playing for PSV Eindhoven, writes Tom Smithies.

You could call it a lingering effect of COVID – the long-term consequences of lockdowns and living in a pandemic a long way from home.

There was much that Amy Harrison loved about living in Holland and playing for a big club like PSV Eindhoven. But after moving to Holland in the early months of the pandemic, and coping with the inevitable restrictions on life a long way from home, the midfielder felt now was the time to switch back to the A-League Women – re-signing for the red and black of Western Sydney.

She returns with the experience of two years in European football, including appearances in the Champions League, and a fresh determination to reverse the continuing underachievement of the Wanderers Women.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – SEPTEMBER 27: Yeni Ngbakoto and Amy Harrison of Western Sydney Wanderers pose during the 2022-23 A-Leagues Season launch at Ultra Football on September 27, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

But family developments have also given her a fresh perspective on what matters more broadly in life – and the fact that she will be playing in front of Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson in the run-up to the World Cup next year is just an added bonus.

In fact, one simple word sums up the feelings that tell Harrison she’s made the right choice. “It’s nice, you know?” she says. “It’s always nice to come home, especially after being away for quite a while. It’s nice to be around family and friends again, and just have some similarities.

“To be back in the West (of Sydney), it’s going to be a really fun experience. I’ve had two and a half years away and it was a pretty tough time with COVID. I’ve just become an auntie and that’s one of the little things that I wanted to do – I wanted to be home around family and friends and just spend some time around them again.

“In many ways the experience in Holland was incredible but it was a pretty tough couple of years. I just want to get back to enjoying football again.

“Over there towards the end, I kind of lost the enjoyment of it, and I never want to get to that point again. I love the game, I love playing and everything that surrounds it, and I want to get back to that point. 

“I know at home in front of family, family and friends and for a club that is home to me, I hopefully will get that again.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 15: Amy Harrison of the Wanderers shoots at goal during the round twelve W-League match between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers at Cromer Park on February 15, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Clearly Harrison isn’t here for an easy ride, given the trials and tribulations that Western Sydney has been in – just one appearance in the finals despite significant investment, and a regular turnover of coaches.

But that one finals campaign came the last time she wore the club’s colours, and that’s why she’s back.

“That’s the best part about it- the fact it’s a challenge,” she says. “Fortunately, I was there the year we made the finals. So I’ve been there with the club to experience success. And for me, it’s a club that deserves to be at the top. 

“It’s a club with so much passion and pride in the West. They know how to bring cultures and families and the team together. That’s our challenge as a team,we’re the ones that can influence that. 

“For me as a senior player, that’s the message – yes, we don’t have a great history, but we’re the only ones that can change it. Which is exactly what we’re going to do.”

Harrison’s view of her chances of a Matildas recall ahead of the World Cup is simple – that success with the Wanderers will position her best – but she has aspirations elsewhere too, after branching out into broadcast work on the ground at the European Championships last year.

“I really enjoy it, as something that I haven’t been able to do before because of football (commitments), and it was the perfect opportunity. It’s definitely something I want to keep involved in, being a part of the Euros was really cool. It’s nice to venture out and do other things that I enjoy.

“I love football, I love talking football and playing it so for me it’s easy to ask a fan something and get a gauge of that atmosphere around football. Usually, you know, we’re in the stadium before we walk out and see everything, but to see the build up of everything around it was it was pretty incredible.”