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You may have seen the number 18 jersey frequent our starting line-up this season and wonder who it is? Well, sporting the number 18 jersey is 19-year-old, Clare Wheeler. Clare has consistently given 100% effort each game this season. This has not gone unnoticed having Coach Craig Deans label Clare as one of his most valuable players in an interview last home game.
Unlike many of her W-League opponents, Clare did not begin playing the beautiful game at a very young age. Clare signed up for her first season when she was 10 years old with her local club, the Adamstown Rosebud. At 13 she was selected for Northern NSW and competed with Newcastle Representative prior to the competitions end. Once the State Youth League folded, Clare had been selected for the Emerging Athletes Program before progressing to the Newcastle Jets.
Clare was clearly a natural as it only took 5 years after her first touch of the ball to impress the coaches at the Jets before she was selected for the team for the 2013.14 season at the age of 15.
“The first game I played was the first televised game and I think the hottest game I’ve ever played…it was ridiculously hot,” Clare laughed.
She continued, “I remember it being very nerve racking, being so young at the time, but now I look back and think it was good experience at a young age”.
Since her time with the Jets, Clare’s skill and technique has improved exponentially and she has since received interest from Young Matildas coaches.
In 2015 Clare was selected for the Young Matildas squad in their Asian Football Championship tournament in China. During this tour, Clare was selected in the starting team in their match against Japan where she played in the fullback position.
Clare was yet again selected for the Young Matildas for their 2016 tour of Myanmar. It was on this tour Clare secured not only her first international goal but also served as captain of the squad.
“When we went to Myanmar I got to captain [the team] which was great, and I got my first goal which was also great!”
“It was a bit surreal at the time, but once you start to make teams you have to set your goals,” Clare stated.
Not only impressing coaches for the Young Matildas, Clare has shone this season and has stood out amongst her team mates week in and week out, according to coach Craig Deans.
“Clare has been very impressive this year and has taken the step from being a squad player last year to being a regular starter this year.”
Deans continued, “I’m very happy for her, she is a quiet achiever and has a big future if she continues to work as hard as she is now.”
On the field:
From a young age, Clare has exhibited a natural flair for football and this combined with her ability to learn quickly has seen her develop an instinctive understanding of the game.
Clare has used her time playing with the Westfield W-League wisely. Competing against Matilda’s players on a weekly basis has challenged her but recognising that she is capable of rising to this challenge has given Clare the confidence she needs to continue her journey through the ranks.
Deans outlines Clare’s mentality, work ethic and versatility as a player, “she has a fantastic mentality and work ethic and is very versatile. She understands the game and shows maturity beyond her years”.
Deans credits the young gun by saying, “the fact that she understands that she has to keep improving if she wants to continue to improve her game is impressive from a coaches’ perspective”.
Off the field:
This year Clare will start her first year at the University of Sydney undergoing a Bachelor of Commerce. But when she has a bit of R&R time, Clare loves to spend quality time with her friends and family, venture on quests to find the best Acai bowl Newcastle has to offer or watches movies, “tonnes and tonnes of movies!”