Relocating from Manly to Newcastle to play with the Jets may seem like a small move but stepping back into the W-league completes a long journey for defender Hannah Bromley.
The Kiwi international returned to elite football this year after a two-year absence. And she is hoping the move may translate into her dream of one day representing her country at an Olympics.
Instead of playing the past two W-League seasons Bromley has led a self-confessed “nomadic lifestyle” for the summer, travelling along the east coast of New South Wales and finding balance in her life.
“Both years I worked right until September, saved as much as I could, then lived out of the back of a van until February,” Bromley said.
“I travelled up past Byron Bay and down to Ulladulla, surfing and fishing and catching my dinner. Sometimes I was by myself, sometimes I was with friends … you learn a lot about yourself when you do that.”
Bromley hails from New Plymouth, a coastal city in New Zealand where you can skate, surf and snowboard all in one day.
She spent five years in the United States on a football scholarship, graduating from the Central Connecticut State University with degrees in psychology and public relations, before earning professional football contracts in Norway and Germany.
But she opted out of both early, feeling something was still missing from her life.
“My lifestyle wasn’t there – I had come from growing up in a really adventurous place but there I just had football and that didn’t quite suit me,” she recalled. “From Germany I returned to New Zealand for six months to try to make the 2012 Olympics but just missed out.”
Missing selection for the London Olympics left her “gutted” and questioning her passion for football. It was then that a friend invited Bromley to pursue football with Northbridge in Australia, a move which proved life-changing for the 28-year-old.
“I had this weird feeling that I wanted to surf and I was drawn to Manly beach,” she said. “I felt like I needed a bit of time to be balanced and the cool thing about Manly was that it did give me the balance like my home town in New Zealand.
“I have lived there for three years now. I taught myself to surf and now I surf pretty much every day.
“Obviously surfing is quite different to football but I think psychologically they relate in some ways; they relate to my happier side.”
After spending the past few summers without football Bromley felt the time was right to return this year.
“I have gone through a lot in the last couple of years, especially with being OK with what happens in your life,” Bromley said.
“My main reason for coming to Newcastle was not about me any more; I wanted to embrace it as an older person and to help the younger ones coming through as much as I can.”
Jets coach Craig Deans said Bromley brings valuable traits to the Newcastle squad.
“From a football perspective she brings experience and a little bit of leadership, which is something we didn’t have a lot of when we lost Hayley [Crawford] and Emily [Van Egmond],” Deans said.
“She is a strong personality which is good for the group to keep working together.”
Bromley’s pre-season was hampered by a knee injury but she has shrugged it off to feature in both games for the Jets so far.
Her main focus is on doing her job for Newcastle in the next couple of months but some strong performances could earn Bromley a recall to the national squad and put her in the mix for next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro .
“I am definitely keen for the Olympics. I have played at a World Cup but not an Olympics … but first of all I just want to enjoy myself with the Jets and see what comes from there,” Bromley said.