Where do I start with a player who set the world on fire and was part of so many trailblazing moments for our national team? There’s very few who spark my emotions the way Lisa De Vanna does. Passion, rage and elation.
Some player’s emotions are the thermometer of the group. De Vanna was more than that. She was the mood and tempo setter. You know if De Vanna was feeling it, good things would happen on the field.
The defensive player in me hates some of it. The ability to turn a match on a dime and leave a defender stranded, no matter how technically well she’s been defended. Some of the unnecessary jibes that’s visible on the sidelines, with words often shot from the hip in the heat of battle.
De Vanna has never been afraid of a bit of argie bargie. Some of it wasn’t totally comfortable to watch. But one thing that you can never question about her is having the passion. The phrase wearing your heart on your sleeve was created to describe the forward.
Thanks for the memories
One of the most memorable goals has to be against the USWNT. Opportunities in the attacking half were rare, with the American’s totally dominant. The ball was fed out of defence to De Vanna who had her back to goal, defender tightly marking. Not just any defender, but Christie Rampone, one of the best in the business. De Vanna did what she does best. Turn and run like the wind. Close control, pure pace, she shook off Rampone and strode half the pitch hell bound to goal. It always had to be something special to beat Hope Solo and it was a rocket to the far, top corner.
Another moment etched in my memory is the opening match in the 2015 World Cup. Again it was against the USWNT, not an easy task. We had been knocking and knocking at the door but Solo was a brick wall. Who broke the deadlock? Of course it was De Vanna. The ball wound up at the top of the area, De Vanna was free of any markers, the ball bounced right and she found the bottom corner. That was the spark of “we can do it. We can beat the best”. The Matildas went on to lose 3-1, but would go on to win their first knock out match in a world cup.
For me personally, the door to women’s football flung open in 2007. Broadcast on free-to-air, the world cup was suddenly on my screen and I was inspired. It’s the competition where De Vanna was the Matildas’ game changer. Coming off the bench, De Vanna was the weapon with pace to burn against tired defences. She scored some absolute bangers.
Playing against boys in the early years of high school meant I spent a lot of time on the substitutes bench. It certainly helped knowing there was a kick arse Matilda also stuck on the bench, who was a total game changer.
One of my very best live memories? When De Vanna scored an absolute banger against Brazil in front of a packed house in Penrith. Her technique was impeccable with the half volley. Whilst I was gobsmacked to be watching my Brazilian heroes in Christine and Marta, players I never thought I’d get to see in Australia, it was De Vanna who stole the show with that gem.
Does she deserve better?
Do I believe that De Vanna was robbed of an opportunity to be a game changer against Norway when our back was against the wall? Wholeheartedly yes.
Would I love to see her in a farewell match? Heck yes, sign me up. I’ll be one of the first to buy a ticket. Do I think it will happen? No. A number of factors weigh into this. De Vanna doesn’t seem the type who will want to do it, whether leaving on good or bad terms. Add on COVID-19 limiting matches, particularly on home soil, and it’s even harder.
I don’t think she was robbed of an Olympic’s spot. We have some excellent attacking talent and with the smaller squad size and lack of defensive depth, it was always going to be youngsters and defenders as those “extras”.
If the season De Vanna had with Melbourne Victory was her last that is a statement to leave on. Some glorious, memorable goals. Plus more silverware to add to her trophy cabinet.
De Vanna has been the bridge to generations. One of a kind. There will never be a player again like her. My biggest hope is that she remains in the game in some capacity.