2017 has thrown so much at me.

It has been the most difficult year of my career.

For the last five years I have been a regular starter for the Matildas, and this season I’ve been at times relegated to the bench or not in the training squad at all.

It’s been the first real hurdle I have had to go through; for many athletes, it’s injuries which conspire against consistency.

For me, it was performance reasons keeping me from adding to my international tally under Matildas’ coach Alen Statjcic.

I can’t even tell you how and why I fell into a lull.

Maybe it was the grinding preparation for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, or maybe fatigue finally setting in after multiple back to back seasons with no rest.

All I know is I struggled to recapture the hunger and desire required to be deserving of wearing the green & gold.

I suppose I feel weak admitting this, as other girls have played back to back seasons for much longer than I have, but I seem to be the one that hasn’t been able to deal with it as well.

I’m my own harshest critic, and super competitive, so when I’m told I’m not able to do something it strikes me to the core.

I was getting really frustrated and couldn’t quite understand why things weren’t going my way.

I felt like I was training really well; I felt I just needed to be given a chance by my club coach.

At the same time, the girls who were actually getting an opportunity to play were doing really well.

And I couldn’t have been more proud of them.

Because of that, I couldn’t just expect to start the following week, therefore I was waiting on an injury in the team or a horrible match to create an opportunity for me.

As such, I felt my fate was resting in other people’s hands.

My mind couldn’t help but race with discouraging thoughts… “am I not keeping up anymore?”, “Am I coming towards the end of my career?”, “Is my body getting too old for this?.”

I began to doubt my own playing ability.

I quickly realised I needed to do everything I could to control the controllable.

So I went about trying to taking things back into my own hands, and focusing more on myself.

I’ve grown up in a Christian family, and have believed since I was young.

I started turning back to the bible to help me find perspective, and it really did help me through what was a very difficult time for me.

I began realising that life is not all about football, and sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture. I know God has a plan for my life and I have to trust in that.

I just wanted to get back to playing the game I have always loved, and doing so for the right reasons.

And sure enough, the wheel began to turn for me.

My mental state at training completely switched, I was enjoying myself so much more, truly appreciative of what football had given me for so many years.

As a result, I was training better than I had been and my happiness off the field spread to on the field. From that point on I knew I still had, and have, so much more to offer the game.

EDMONTON, AB - JUNE 15: Laura Alleway #5 of Australia talks with Alen Stajcic coach of Australia during a training session at Commonwealth Stadium on June 15, 2015 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Maddie Meyer - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
EDMONTON, AB – JUNE 15: Laura Alleway #5 of Australia talks with Alen Stajcic coach of Australia during a training session at Commonwealth Stadium on June 15, 2015 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Maddie Meyer – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

As I add another year to my career playing in the national program, I realise I simply have to work harder for it.

I have that fire in my belly again and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Being a positive influence and personality is what I value most now. I want to be the best teammate I can be, whether that be for the Matildas or for my new club team at Melbourne Victory.

The best thing about playing for the Matildas right now, and each of us will tell you this, no one is playing for themselves.

We’re playing for each other, and really embracing what it means to be a Matilda.

I want to be a strong positive example for my current Matilda teammates, as well as the next generation coming through the junior ranks.

So whether I am in the starting 11, on the interchange bench, or watching on from the sidelines, I believe I still have a vital role to play and want to be doing everything I can to help our national team reach its full potential and exceed all expectations.

Laura Alleway

Laura Alleway is an Australian professional soccer player who currently plays for Melbourne Victory in the W-League.

She made her debut for the Australian Matildas in 2010, and has been a regular in the national women's soccer team since wearing the green and gold colours for the first time.