A perfectly placed, perfectly paced shot that sunk cleanly into the corner of the net — any player would be stoked to be the boot behind it, but that it was Hayley Raso is cause for particular celebration.
Just six months ago, Raso took a goalkeeper’s knee to her back while playing for Portland in the National Women’s Soccer League in the US.
She was stretchered off the field in visible agony. X-rays later showed that she had broken three vertebrae.
Dreams in the balance
Raso remembers the moment vividly; lying face down on the grass, her legs numb, and her World Cup dreams crushed.
“I couldn’t do anything at that moment, I was just in so much pain, I couldn’t move my body,” she told the ABC.
“I can remember just saying: ‘Help me, help me’. I knew that something bad had happened.”
Raso was rushed to a Washington hospital. Her mum, Renaye Sweeting, had been watching the game from her home on the Gold Coast and immediately flew to Washington to be by her side.
Raso spent a week and a half in hospital before being moved to a local rehabilitation centre where she began a gruelling rehabilitation process.
“Eventually I was able to get up, slowly and with a lot of help.”
“I was firstly in a wheelchair then I went to using a walking frame and I was just taking really small steps trying to get around the hospital.”
Return to glory
— Patrick Galloway (@pat11g) October 14, 2018
On Thursday, she made her debut back on the field playing for the Matildas against New Zealand in the Cup of Nations. Subbed on with only 20 minutes of play left, Raso said her instructions from coach Ante Milicic were just to have a bit of a run.
“He just told me to have fun and enjoy myself,” Raso said after the match.
“I’m just so excited to be out here playing again and to get a goal topped it all off tonight.”
From the moment she entered the pitch, Raso refreshed the game with her energy.
Easily the fastest on the field, she darted around with agility that New Zealand just couldn’t keep up with.
And when that opportunity to put another one away for Australia arose, Raso held off on her run, allowing Harrison an ideal pass straight to her feet.
With a cheeky shift, Raso stumped the defenders, allowing her the clean shot into the net.
With her sights firmly set on representing Australia at the World Cup in France in June, after this performance, pressure will be on Milicic to ensure her a spot in the national team.