Tuesday 10 March 2020, 06:18

Dual star McCormick's Olympic dream

  • Jenna McCormick featured at elite level in two sports last year

  • Centre-back hoping to feature for Australia at Tokyo 2020

  • France 2019 spurred McCormick to focus on “unfinished business”

Make no mistake, Jenna McCormick is no ordinary athlete. Back in her school days, lunchtime would see two boys, in time-honoured schoolyard fashion, take alternate turns to pick the teams and invariably the first name to be heard was 'Jenna'. With the benefit of hindsight, those boys proved to be judicious judges.

Fast forward to early 2019 and McCormick was on the field for Adelaide Crows when they won the national Australian Rules football premiership in front of 50,000 spectators. It was something of a milestone moment and a figure that was, until this week, a record for a national record for a women’s sporting event Down Under.

Seeing the attendance flashed on the scoreboard was, as McCormick states, a “spine-tingling moment”. A career in Australian rules football - the nation’s best supported sport - seemed assured.

Yet by the end of the year McCormick was representing the Matildas. And it was an assured and cultured debut showing from the centre-back, one which perhaps belied her emotions. The 25-year-old admitted after November’s match against Chile that she was about to “bawl my eyes out”.

It has been no ordinary journey for McCormick since her W-League debut in 2012, more of a rollercoaster ride than a smooth upward trajectory to the top. Always a quiet achiever in the W-League, she was on the verge of giving up the game just two years ago. But McCormick has barely put a foot wrong during her four caps.

Suddenly, dreams of becoming an Olympian are coming into view. Australia put one hand on a ticket to the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020 with a 5-0 first-leg win in last Friday’s play-off, though the job remains to be completed in Vietnam tomorrow.

McCormick watched the Matildas at the Rio Olympics four years ago, without even dreaming of featuring on such a rarefied stage.

“I was watching the team, but I had no idea that it would ever be a possibility for me because, to be totally honest, I didn’t think I was good enough,” McCormick told FIFA.com. “It wasn’t on my radar. I only really believed that I could reach the top level in the last couple of years.

“But I feel like I have grown as a player. Now being involved for the last six months has helped me even more."

Unlike many of her former ‘Aussie rules’ team-mates, McCormick comes from dyed-in-the-wool football stock. Dad Brian was a legendary figure for the local football club in Mount Gambier, and young Jenna had a round ball at her feet by the age of two.

But despite that connection with the game, an unhappy spell in Norway and the lure of Australia’s indigenous football game had McCormick thinking of a new direction in her sporting life.

“At the start of 2018 I was pretty convinced I was only going to play AFL (Australian rules), and at that point I was happy to do that," she said.

“It (my improvement) has been a pretty big jigsaw puzzle. Over the last four years many things have happened that have led me to this point.

“So it went fairy quickly from not wanting to play anymore, to finding the love for the game back, and then thinking, ‘Maybe I really can go to the next level’."

There was also the incentive brought about by watching the Matildas perform at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™. There was “unfinished business”, as McCormick calls it.

“That (watching the Women’s World Cup) spurred me on to make a call between the two sports and it has got me to where I am today.

“I certainly had that (Olympics) in the forefront of my mind and it is something I want to strive towards. I have made sacrifices to get where I am and I want to be there when the squad is announced.”