Not many players get the chance to begin their careers playing alongside two Westfield Matildas stars, but that’s a reality for young Roar defenders Winonah Heatley & Jamilla Rankin.
Head Coach Jake Goodship has stuck with the same back four throughout the opening three games of the Westfield W-League season, which has conceded just the solitary goal in that time.
That back four is marshalled by two of the Westfield W-League finest ever players in Clare Polkinghorne & Kim Carroll, who have reunited in the heart of the Roar defence for the first time in six seasons.
19-year-old Heatley & 17-year-old Rankin have been given the nod by Goodship in the opening rounds and it’s proving to be a one-of-a-kind learning experience.
“I’m pretty lucky to be getting so much game time this season. Having that experience throughout the first three games has been really good for me and hopefully I can get plenty more experience this season,” Heatley said.
“I’m next to [Clare] Polks [Polkinghorne] & Kim [Carroll] who make you look pretty good. You have to put in a lot of work, but next to those two it’s pretty easy to find your place.
“They’re players who have done amazing things in the careers and who I really look up to so to be able to play alongside, and learn from them, is really a pleasure.”
The two young defenders have earned themselves big wraps already in their young careers, with Heatley also earning a spot in the Round 1 Team of the Week.
With just 10 Westfield W-League games worth of experience combined, the pair are simply enjoying the experience and doing their best to soak it all in.
“Thankfully I’m alongside some experienced players so I’m learning off them, continuing to grow and just doing my best to help the team,” Rankin added.
“We’ve been good friends for a while – we enjoy playing together and it’s great experience for both of us.”
Heatley added: “Jamilla is a player that I really rate and I’m really happy that she’s got the opportunities she has so far this season and grow into the league.”
The Roar have recorded three draws to open their campaign and have rued missed opportunities, but there’s a feeling among the group that the tide is set to change.
“There’s just a feeling amongst the group that it’s coming. We’re working hard and creating chances which Jake has been highlighting and it’s only a matter of time,” Heatley concluded.
The Roar are next in Westfield W-League action on Sunday, 17 January, on the road against Newcastle Jets at McDonald Jones Stadium (5:40pm kick-off QLD time).