Heyman hits 100 W-League games but expected it to come sooner

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Michelle Heyman of United (right) strikes the ball past Alanna Kennedy of City during the round 7 W-League match between Melbourne City and Canberra United at AAMI Park in Melbourne, Sunday, December 10, 2017. (AAP Image/Joe Castro) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Michelle Heyman of United (right) strikes the ball past Alanna Kennedy of City during the round 7 W-League match between Melbourne City and Canberra United at AAMI Park in Melbourne, Sunday, December 10, 2017. (AAP Image/Joe Castro) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Canberra United captain Michelle Heyman is set to play her 100th W-League game on Sunday, but the 29-year-old said she expected the milestone to come much sooner.

Heyman spent the inaugural W-League season at Sydney FC and her second year with the Central Coast Mariners, before arriving in the capital where she has played since 2010.

It has taken a decade for the Matildas veteran to reach the 100-game mark due to W-League seasons growing from just 10 to 12 home and away games over the past 10 years.

In comparison, Canberra Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker started his NRL career one year after Heyman but has already played 213 games.

W-League players secured a record pay deal this season but must still spend their off seasons playing overseas to support themselves year-round.

Heyman said she was excited to notch the ton against the Western Sydney Wanderers at home but Canberra's star striker admitted she wished the season length had grown further.

"It's always been a goal that I set in my W-League career and it's a great feeling to get there and I'm just happy to be able to do it here in Canberra," Heyman said.

"I hoped and I thought by now I would have had more [games], I was hoping that the league would definitely be a lot longer than what it is at the moment."

Despite the home and away season staying largely the same, Heyman said there had been plenty of changes over the past 10 years.

"It's grown from day dot and every year it's getting better, the style of football and the way we play now in Australia has changed dramatically," Heyman said.

"When I started when I was about 20 and the kids now are starting at 15, it's a positive outlook on the W-League future and I'm very proud to be a part of it.

"It's just been a fun journey, I've loved playing for the clubs I've played for and it's been fun winning a few finals and making all the friends I've got - it's my life - I don't really do anything other than this."

Heyman has been one of the league's most prolific scorers over the past decade with 60 goals from her 99 appearances, including four in seven games this season.

"This year has been a bit different because we have a lot of younger girls in the squad but it's a great learning experience for them," Heyman said.

"I'm just happy to be a part of their journey and build them into leaders and stronger players."

First-year coach Heather Garriock said she had high expectations for Heyman but said her skipper has delivered in spades and backed Heyman to only get better.

"She's the heart and soul of this team, anyone that hears of Canberra United links that with Michelle Heyman, she's a fantastic leader on and off the field and leads by her actions," Garriock said.

"She's more than delivered in terms of expectations. I've got very high expectations of the whole group and I'm not stopping here, I think she's got even more to give.

"To have 100 games and the majority with Canberra United she should be proud of herself because we're certainly proud of her."

United snapped a three-game losing streak with a 6-1 win against Adelaide United last week and victory against the Wanderers will put United back within one point of the top four.

W-LEAGUE ROUND 11:

Sunday: Canberra Untied v Western Sydney Wanderers at McKellar Park, 4:30pm.

This story Heyman hits 100 W-League games but expected it to come sooner first appeared on Brisbane Times.