After two year absence, Laura Brock buoyant on Matildas return

Over two years since she last pulled on a Matildas’ shirt, defender Laura Brock (née Alleway) is ecstatic about getting the chance to link up with her teammates and represent her nation once again.

Brock last featured for the Matildas during the FFA Cup of Nations tournament in 2019, with injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic subsequently hampering her quest to add to her 60 Australian appearances in the following years.  

Heartbreakingly, the veteran centre-back was ruled out of what would have been her third World Cup just days out from its 2019 iteration after succumbing to a foot injury in its lead-in. Not wanting to leave her teammates, she subsequently dipped into her own pocket to saty with and support the squad. 

She loomed as a potential call-up for pre-Olympic friendlies against the United States and Canada in April 2020, only for the pandemic to hit the pause button on her’s – and world football’s – plans. 

Eventually, Brock joined French side EA Guingamp ahead of the 2020-21 season and has played over 1000 minutes in the heart of the Brittany-based club’s defence; that form earning her a call-up to new coach Tony Gustavsson’s first squad for coming friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands. 

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“It’s been a solid two years since I’ve pulled on this jersey so I’m very excited to be here,” the defender, speaking from the Matildas’ Dutch base camp, said. 

“It’s just so good to see the girls and have some familiar faces and voices [around]. [I’m] really happy to be back. 

“[The runion] was amazing but awful because I’m such a hugger – but we’re not allowed to hug each other!

“Walking around I think when I saw Aivi [Luik] I couldn’t help myself but I went to the ground and hugged her leg, so it’s still technically COVID safe. 

“But it’s really hard to not just embrace each other. We haven’t seen each other in over a year sp everyone was kind of doing these awkward high elbows and stuff.”

The Matildas’ coming fixtures against Die Nationalelf and Leeuwinnen represent somewhat of a baptism of fire both for Brock as she attempts to integrate herself back into the national setup and for Gustavsson as he seeks to make his mark on the Matildas. 

The Germans are the reigning Olympic champions while the Dutch were defeated in the final of the most recent Women’s World Cup by the United States – Gustavsson’s former side. 

“I could have gone down the road of an easy start as a new coach, get a couple of easy games where we can get some positive results and get the belief in there but we can’t waste a minute,” Gustavsson told journalists last month. 

New Matidlas coach Tony Gustavsson (right)

“We need to play as tough a schedule as possible and looking at these two games now with Germany and Holland – the winner of the Olympics and a World Cup finalist – it’s tough to find a more difficult schedule than that.”

Speaking after the ‘Tillies first training session under their new Swedish gaffer, Brock said the coming camp and games represent an excellent opportunity to both observe how her new coach approaches the game and boost her confidence after such a long absence from the Green and Gold setup. 

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“The first [session is] always fun, it’s a bit lighter. Girls are coming in from all different parts of the world and have different circumstances they’re coming from. 

“I didn’t have a game this weekend but some of the girls did, so it’s really hard to get everyone to adjust to the same schedule. So the first session is always a bit mismatch. 

“But it was really fun and it was good to see the way Tony sees the game a little bit and a little insight into what we can expect from him further down the track. 

“He’s very positive and ball oriented. He’s big on our off-the-ball movement so it will be cool to see how that evolves into our games and how we can try to transition from the training pitch to the game.

“I guess [Brock is looking for] a little bit of my confidence back. Not being around the girls as much you doubt yourself, being away from it. 

“I know it was an injury that kept me away but you just sort of… you’re not sure where you’re at, how you gauge yourself in training. 

“Obviously, I can keep up in France but can I keep up in the national team? We don’t know yet.

“Just getting my confidence back and enjoying the time, every minute that I have here and trying to be positive with the new girls and if that’s passing on the baton that’s ok as well.”

Image Credits: Football Australia

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