Football 3 years ago

Same game, different worlds for Carneys

  • Same game, different worlds for Carneys

When David and Michelle Carney were kids their dad used to take them out in Camden and teach them football skills.

Both were naturals on the ball, though it would rile David how his sister, two years his senior, would always get one up on him.

More often than not he would end up back in the car crying, a wreck in defeat.

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"She used to always beat me and I used to go home crying to mum," the 31-year-old Newcastle Jets winger told AAP.

"Twenty years later nothing has changed - when I get beat I still cry."

Michelle had played netball until she was about nine, when her football-loving father got sick of pulling his hair out on the sidelines and suggested a switch to a different round-ball game.

"It was in my blood, I had no choice," she said.

The Carney siblings learnt off each other on the street, furthering their education together on the same local mixed side because David was talented enough to play above his own age group.

Their career paths appeared aligned when they were both snapped up by the NSW Institute of Sport.

However the difference in their gender had already written different futures.

Carney's left foot went on to become one of the most lethal in Australia, earning 48 Socceroos caps and spending the good part of a decade in Europe and also winning the inaugural A-League title with Sydney FC.

Michelle achieved her own success, playing for the Young Matildas before winning the W-League premiership-championship double with the Sky Blues, and now playing for the Western Sydney Wanderers.

But with the women's game not seen as professional and bills to be paid, football was always an extra-curricular activity.

"It was hard looking at my brother's opportunities, what boys got back then compared to what we got," said Michelle, now 33.

"It was massive. He got in state teams and got scouts and he was fortunate enough to get picked to go to England and play for Everton in the academy.

"Whereas we did it just for fun. There was no money, it was just more for me enjoying football because I love to play it.

"I've never looked at it as being my profession."

It's a story all too familiar for Australia's female footballers.

Like most, Michelle holds down a full-time job - she's a school PE teacher in Sydney's Macquarie Fields - while training as a full-time athlete to play in the country's top league.

It's a concept David still can't quite fathom.

"We whinge and think it's hard sometimes, but we just concentrate on football," he said.

"You have to think of the other side - going to work and then keeping yourself fit and motivated to go to training at night and then play on a weekend. That would be tough."

Today, it's still by no means easy.

But the women's game is arguably in its best state yet, flourishing thanks to the gigantic boost of the Matildas' dream World Cup run in Canada earlier this year.

Suddenly this weekend's start of the eighth W-League season has serious mainstream appeal, further pushed by extended TV coverage.

In the broadest exposure yet, Fox Sports and the ABC will both broadcast a match live each round, staged as double-headers with A-League games to complement Fox Sports' regular A-League coverage.

Michelle's Wanderers will kick off their season away against Adelaide United on Saturday afternoon, and she's excited at the extra attention.

"I wouldn't have imagined it would grow this much," she said.

"It's looking good for women's football and it's well-deserved, because the quality we are producing shows the talent needs to be shown out there to the public."

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