Alleway reveals teary Matildas struggle

Recounting the injury drama that robbed her of a World Cup place, Laura Alleway says her replacement, Karly Roestbakken, could go on to be a Matildas captain.

KARLY ROESTBAKKEN of Canberra controls the ball during the W-League match between the Newcastle Jets and Canberra United at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, Australia.
KARLY ROESTBAKKEN of Canberra controls the ball during the W-League match between the Newcastle Jets and Canberra United at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, Australia. Picture: Tony Feder/Getty Images

Laura Alleway didn't set foot on a World Cup pitch this month but her impact was as great as any other Matildas player in France.

The veteran defender was withdrawn from Australia's squad on the eve of the tournament after a foot injury, making her the hard-luck story of the campaign.

The hardy Melbourne Victory centre back didn't think twice about staying on through the World Cup anyway.

"There was no way I was going to leave them," she told AAP.

Alleway reached into her own pocket to travel alongside the Matildas.

She mentored her replacement, Karly Roestbakken, and has made a bold prediction about the 18-year-old's future.

Alleway also helped Chloe Logarzo, one of Australia's best players at the tournament, with a beloved pre-game ritual.

And in return, her shirt was hung in the dressing room by coach Ante Milicic as the team harnessed the emotion of having a much-loved team member suffer such a cruel fate.

The thin rewards of being a female footballer are such that players circle major tournaments as their big opportunities, and their major earning potential.

It's for those reasons that Alleway busted a gut to try and make the squad, and fell apart when she didn't get there.

"I hurt my foot in a tackle with Em van Egmond in training in Turkey. It felt like totally nothing," she said.

"I was kind of sore walking around the hotel but thought nothing of it. The next day, I was in excruciating pain."

Alleway was sent to hospital, where they waited for "hours and hours" only to get an unclear scan.

"They thought I had nothing wrong with me. I flew on thinking I had a bit of a sore foot," she said.

"I was getting smoked in the gym because they wanted me to keep my condition.

"I then got another scan in Holland, sent it back to Australia and was 'uh oh'.

"They basically said it was 90 per cent chance a stress fracture. Meaning four to six weeks out and if you push it too hard, you can break it."

With such a rich reward so close, Alleway kept her focus.

"Ante said 'even if you have a one per cent chance of making it back, we want to give you that opportunity'. So I kept working," she said.

"Some days I sat on the bike and cried because it felt hopeless. It felt so terrible."

A squad deadline loomed.

"Ante said 'Saturday we submit the squad. You train Friday and we'll put you in'," she said.

"Thursday was my build-up session and I couldn't get through it.

"I got to 70 per cent and I just stopped and broke down. And broke down crying.

"I said: 'I'm done'. And it all hit me. That was really hard.

"But it was harder going back and seeing the girls and seeing their reactions.

"They were all wishing me good luck. Fingers crossed. They were all so hopeful and I was too.

"It was the killer of hope. That's what hurts now looking back on it."

The Matildas were devastated by Alleway's exit, though a replacement was already at hand.

On the advice of assistant Gary van Egmond, Milicic turned to young fullback Roestbakken, overlooking other centre backs with Caitlin Cooper at the front of the queue.

It turned out to be an inspired choice; Roestbakken jumped ahead of her positional rivals to make three appearances in France.

Alleway was not surprised.

"She's a jet," she said of Roestbakken.

"We got close training in Sydney preparing. I was so impressed by her.

"She's so respectful and humble and mature; and such a good footballer.

"When the squad first got announced I told her 'I'm gutted for you because I thought you'd be on that plane'.

"Then she got here because of me and I was like: 'I jinxed myself'.

"I was honestly really stoked for her.

"She's fit in so well. She's the future of this team. And a future Matildas captain."

Alleway mentored Roestbakken through the tournament over the phone, watching all the matches in France from the stands.

And from distance, she found a new way to sing Logarzo's beloved pump-up song - Alicia Keys' Superwoman - to her teammate.

"When I had to depart the group, I'd given my final words to everyone, she handed me a phone and I knew exactly what she wanted," she said.

"I ran into the room next door, put the video on and filmed myself singing it.

"I usually sing it to her before matches in person but this way ... she loved it."

Logarzo was player of the match against Brazil in Australia's finest performance in France, with their campaign ending on Sunday morning (AEST) after the tough penalty shootout loss to Norway.

The team will be back in competitive action next year in Olympic qualifiers, and Alleway plans to be there after rehab.

Although it seems she barely even left, right down to Milicic putting her shirt in the locker rooms through the tournament.

"When I learned that I cried again," she said.

"Ante told Chad our kit man that my jersey has to be hung up in there, which obviously means the world to me.

"That I can still be here and support them means so much to me.

"To see how much it meant to them as well was really humbling."


AAP