Matildas superstar Kyah Simon is reaping the benefits of a change in mindset with both club and country.
Her recent return to help the Matildas move a step closer to Olympics qualification complements her W-League form, which has Melbourne City within touching distance of a premiership.
It’s all a far cry from Simon’s past 12 months, which were some of the most difficult of her career.
Persistent injuries hampered her club campaigns with City and NWSL side Houston Dash, preventing her from building match fitness and form in a crucial World Cup year.
Eventually, it led to the previously unthinkable: The 2010 Asian Cup hero found herself on the outside looking in at the Matildas’ World Cup squad in France last year.
Adding insult to literal injury, she then suffered a hamstring complaint while training as a World Cup standby player, dashing any hopes of a recall.
Traditionally one to throw caution to the wind during rehabilitation, the array of injuries and the heartache of missing a World Cup eventually led to a – somewhat imposed – change in mindset by the 28-year-old.
No longer would she battle through the pain to play before she was fully fit. Instead, she would focus on getting her body right.
It’s a philosophical change that has paid dividends.
With a W-League premiership up for grabs, Simon will take the field against Western Sydney Wanderers on Thursday night off the back of a long-awaited and successful return to the national squad.
Across recent Olympic qualifiers, she netted two goals and two assists – including the assist for Emily van Egmond’s vital equaliser against China PR – as the Matildas advanced to the next round.
An absolute SCREAMER from @em_surf in the 9️⃣3️⃣rd minute!
— Westfield Matildas (@TheMatildas) February 13, 2020
“I think it has been about a good four or five years [since being this healthy],” Simon said.
“I think there has always been something to be chasing or trying to play catch up or racing against the clock for a major tournament or a season or some sort.
“The approach has been quite different this time around.
“The patience of City, the patience of the Matildas, has been amazing for me.
“I’m now reaping the benefits of having a lot more precaution in the early phases of rehab, taking it a step at a time, and not going in guns blazing too early.
“It was a blessing in disguise that people put the brakes on me, told me to take more time, put your body first and don’t be like a kid in a candy store.
“The football stuff comes when I’m fit and healthy, and that’s where I’m at now.”
With just two games of the W-League season remaining, Simon’s City is undefeated and firm favourite to take out the W-League championships, its season-long success built off the back of a rock-solid foundation.
Coach Rado Vidošić’s side has only conceded three goals thus far in 2019-20, with City’s 2015-16 record of five goals shipped well within reach.
An opposing side last netted against City on December 8 – six games ago – in a contest it proceeded to win 2-1.
In all, it has been 629 minutes since City goalkeeper Lydia Williams was forced to retrieve the ball from her net.
Reasserting its dominance, City has only trailed for eight minutes, before Milica Mijatović and Emily van Egmond drove a dagger through Canberra United’s brief flash of hope in Round 2.
“We’ve said goals win you games, but clean sheets win you championships,” Vidošić said.
“That’s one thing that we’ve been talking about all year.
“We have a fantastic backline and a fantastic goalkeeper.
“That was always something we could achieve. That was always something that was driving us.
629 minutes without conceding. Six consecutive clean sheets. Three goals against.
⛔Rock solid.⛔ pic.twitter.com/ozlYVMlRB8
— Melbourne City FC 🏙️ (@MelbourneCity) February 17, 2020
“It takes a lot of discipline when people are making forward runs and people are staying behind and protecting.
“I think we’ve managed to get better at that with each game and our opponents have created less and less.
“There were some games where Lydia was quite busy, but the last few games, she hasn’t really been so busy.
“That tells you that our structure is working quite well and that the players have embraced that challenge to put their body on the line when they have to.”
Six points clear heading into the W-League’s penultimate round, City needs only a point away to Western Sydney to wrap up the Premier’s Plate.
But for Simon, the intrinsic rewards that have come with being fully fit and playing as part of the Matildas and City have already made her a winner.
“Knowing the tough period that I did go through personally … and now to be doing my part for the team, [silverware is] a bonus,” she said.
“My main priority was just to get back to loving football and enjoying football again; playing freely and being out there with the girls.
“You really can’t put a price on that.”