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  • Writer's pictureJack Twohill

Holly McNamara's injury woes could be the making of her career

Replacing experienced talents who have enjoyed long and illustrious careers with new and exciting prospects is paramount regarding the future prosperity of any league or national team setup. While the Matildas' experienced campaigners were performing at the FIFA Women's World Cup, Melbourne City's prized youngster, Holly McNamara, was overcoming the best part of a year out of the game. McNamara has fallen victim to another lengthy injury setback in putting Melbourne City on her shoulders at the weekend. For the second time in her short career, she must overcome unimaginable pain and adversity to take her place amongst the next crop of emerging Australian football greats.

Holly McNamara in camp for the Matildas. (Twitter: @TheMatildas)

Holly McNamara's potential to be a superstar in the same mould as Sam Kerr or Caitlin Foord has long been suggested. The Round 5 A-League Women's fixture between Melbourne City and the Newcastle Jets gave Matildas fans another glimpse into a bright future ahead as one of Australia's most esteemed young footballers returned to her home city of Newcastle.

McNamara's return to the top tier of Australian women's domestic football was as triumphant as her initial stretch of games in the A-League Women. A nasty ACL injury ruled her out for an extended period last year. Her brace against the Jets in front of a solid crowd at No.2 Sportsground in Newcastle's inner suburbs brought her goal tally up to six for the 2023/24 season, cementing her spot at the top of the scoring charts for the early part of the campaign.

On Sunday, McNamara seemed to revel in the physical challenge posed by young Zoe Karipidis during the first half, as the Jets hoped to contain the ferocious winger whilst welcoming back hometown hero and Matildas legend Emily van Egmond with a much-needed victory. However, McNamara's blistering pace, which at the best of times is hard to contain, was too much to handle for a dogged Jets defence, as the winger eventually showed the attacking instincts of a seasoned pro with two late goals, steering Dario Vidosic's side to a crucial three points.

But unfortunately for McNamara, her late winner in Newcastle will be the last goal contribution we see from the prodigy this season, as she sustained a season-ending ACL injury whilst placing her 92nd-minute strike into Isobel Nino's bottom right corner. The ACL, already the second such injury in McNamara's short career, means her injury woes are becoming more frequent. For players at the young age she is, it can often leave a lasting effect on their career.

There have been many instances where Australian football has seen exciting young talents have their careers shortened by constant injury issues or the mental toll they can have in players not trusting their health on the pitch. This effect also lasts on teammates and coaching staff, particularly in City's case, as their high expectations for championship glory this season could have just been dashed on the back of seeing their young, arguably world-class talent go down for an extended period.

Vidosic's side, whilst not short of immense quality across the pitch, will now be searching for an answer to who will replace their young star, as will Matildas manager Tony Gustavsson. McNamara has only made three appearances for the national team thus far. With another injury setback, Tillies fans will have to watch and wait to see whether her immense potential will be displayed on the international stage.

But as we have seen repeatedly in football, it can be the adversity experienced by players that builds their resilience and mental capacity to return more determined, even when the game deals out the harshest fates.

McNamara has already shown her preparedness to rehabilitate and restart at a state level, helping APIA Leichhardt to a league and cup double in the Football NSW season this year, scoring ten goals across 17 appearances. Her outstanding tenacity, competitiveness, and passion for the game were on full display for all who paid attention to the NPL NSW Women's in the A-League Women's off-season. Going back further, upon McNamara's return to the A-League Women last season, she contributed to the home stretch of City's 2022/23 campaign with one goal and three assists across only six appearances.



McNamara after winning the Player of the Match award for the inaugural Sapphire Cup Final this year. (NPL New South Wales Facebook)

McNamara will not need to look far for inspiration in staying hungry whilst she spends the remainder of the A-League Women's season and a large chunk of the Matildas rotation on the sidelines.

Matildas teammate Clare Hunt had to overcome seven major surgeries in five years before shining with the Western Sydney Wanderers and at the World Cup, gaining the nation's admiration and earning a significant move to French side Paris Saint Germain. Elsewhere, Hayley Raso's recovery from a broken back, being told she would never play again, to then becoming one of the country's most impactful players ever and the first Australian to play for Spanish giants Real Madrid, should also give fans, critics, and McNamara's teammates hope she will return stronger.

Given the history of such situations within the current Matildas squad, McNamara could return better than ever and take her rightful place alongside Foord, Kerr, Raso, and Mary Fowler at the heart of Australia's attack.

With this context in mind, one could conclude that amongst her injury struggles, McNamara has the will to push ahead and battle through the tough times. This resilience could help mould a world-class footballer and a role model for aspiring young footballers everywhere.

Two serious knee injuries before the age of 21 would be brutal for anyone to endure, let alone a professional athlete. But McNamara's diligence has carried her through before and should do so again, bar any further unforeseen setbacks. Injuries, especially those McNamara has sustained, often end careers. But the attacker's struggle could be the making of hers.

Click here to read more of FPF's coverage of the A-Leagues!


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