How goalkeeping saved me
I’ve had a very rocky life. There’s been a lot of knockdowns. One day I’ll say everything, but there’s a lot of stuff I’m still struggling to cope with myself.
I’m from a separated family. Mum and Dad broke up when I was about eight or nine, and there were a lot of issues with that scenario, a lot of bad demons and all that, especially when Dad remarried and his second wife didn’t understand children, and unfortunately I got singled out very badly to the point where it was traumatic.
So Mum obviously had to bring up me and my brother and sister alone. My sister is disabled physically and mentally. These days, she lives in a shared home with other people who have the same background. It’s a great system and home for her. I see her as much as I can when I get home.
My brother is blind in one eye, and was a really great soccer player himself. He made the Australian schoolboys team and always had the passion that he wanted to make it big, but unfortunately when it came to the crunch, he got singled out due to his eye which is a bit shitty but you can’t change that.
I guess I’m living his dreams. That’s one of the reasons I keep going, because I’m living what he wanted to do.
Mum had to do it pretty hard. She was working all the time. If I had training, my brother would be the one cooking. If he had training, I would cook. So I learned from a very young age to be an adult basically, because Mum was earning the income but we were the ones doing everything else, cleaning the house and that because Dad wasn’t in the picture very much.
I guess that’s the bit that’s a bit traumatising because when you’re a kid you’re supposed to be a kid and not have any worries. But we learned very quickly how to grow up.
And then, obviously, I’ve had all my injuries which is another shit scenario.
I played my first game of soccer when I was nine and I actually didn’t like it. I remember going to my mum after the game and saying ‘I don’t know if I want to play this’, and she was like ‘Well, I signed you up for a season so you have to complete it, and then afterwards you can decide what you want to do’.
I think I didn’t like soccer at first because I just wasn’t ready for it. At that age I didn’t know what I wanted. Anything I tried, I didn’t like; it wasn’t soccer specifically. After that season I played netball, I did athletics, I did softball, swimming, and pretty much every other sport.
It wasn’t until I was 11 or 12 that I went back and played soccer because of my brother who was playing. His semi-final went to a penalty shootout and his team won and they were so happy and I was like, ‘Mum, I’m going to try it again’. I wanted to feel what my brother had felt.
I guess I’m living my brother’s dreams. That’s one of the reasons I keep going.
So I played again. Then halfway through the season, one of our kids got injured and my coach said, ‘you played netball, do you mind going in goals?’ We didn’t have anyone else, so I said, ‘I’ll have a go’. I had a blinder – and this was in a boys’ team.
The next season I trialled as a goalkeeper. My old team was Division Four, but I actually made the Division One team in the boys league and I even played up a year as well. I went to a completely new club where there were only three of us girls and the rest were boys.
I remember at my first trial session, one of the boys said, ‘Are you seriously trialling?’ - and I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to give it a go’. He said, ‘I’ll be really upset if you beat me’ - and I said, ‘Well, they’re going to pick whoever’s the best one, let’s see how we go’. And I got picked over him.
For the first three weeks with that team, they were like, ‘oh my god we have a girl in goal’. But, by the end of the season, all the boys I was playing with were like, ‘nup, we would pick you any day’. I even ended up being really good friends with the boy I beat for the goalie spot.
"Most kids dream of scoring the perfect goal. I've always dreamed of stopping it"#wac2018 #matildas #keepersunion #safehands #uhlsportaustralia #eyeontheprize
Photo credit to Ben Coonan pic.twitter.com/3YaEgUADAL
— Casey Dumont (@CaseyDumont) April 6, 2021
BATTERED AND BRUISED
After my fourth season of W-League, I got osteitis pubis during the season, but at first got misdiagnosed. OP is like bone bruising but to a point before a stress fracture happens, so I kept playing without complaining because I was like, ‘no pain, no gain’.
But I soon got stress fractures and tore ligaments and had a hip displacement and basically just went to shit really quickly because I was young and unprofessional and didn’t know how to look after my body.
I went from moderate OP to severe within a couple of weeks, then after the season finished I was bedridden for seven months.
I didn’t kick a soccer ball for nearly two years. This was from the age of 19 to 21. I used the time on the sidelines to fast-track a nursing degree. I smashed out a three-year course in a year-and-a-half because I thought, ‘I’ve got the time, why not?’.
That was not my only severe injury. In the 2014/15 season when I was playing for Sydney FC, I went up for a cross and got squashed between Katie Gill and Alanna Kennedy and lacerated my liver. That was kind of scary. I went to a specialist and he said, of the only two cases he’d had, one had to have emergency surgery and the other unfortunately didn’t make it.
So that was kind of freaky because it happened in Perth and then I flew home and all I remember is I passed out from the pain. I woke up at nan and pop’s and I was yellow. And I was like, ‘Oh my god something’s not right, the pain’s really bad, why am I going yellow?’.
I rang the team doctor and said, ‘you need to get me scans’ and I was laying on the table and he was like, ‘don’t move, do not move, we’ve got to go and get the specialist’ - and that’s when I started freaking out. Ten minutes later, the doctors were like, ‘how are you sitting here having flown from Perth?’. It was very scary when they told me all the things that could have happened.
I smashed out a three-year nursing degree in a year-and-a-half.
After that, I came back, finished the season and then before the 2015 Canada World Cup campaign, we went to New Zealand for some friendly games. I remember the date exactly. It was the 12th of February 2015. I finally got my first international cap, and 70-75 minutes into the game, I did my ACL.
It was a freekick. I came up and punched the ball and New Zealand defender hit me - I struck my leg out and my leg hit the ground and hyper-extended and I felt it straight away.
The pain was excruciating.
I remember just laying there on the ground with the ball still in play and New Zealand scored because I was on the ground. And I remember feeling that this was supposed to be the best time of my life. I’d finally gotten a chance to play and I was injured.
When they stretchered me off the field, the doctor was like, ‘There’s no point me testing it, if you know, you know’. But we’ll check when you’ve got time. And when I got back to the hotel – everyone who plays their first game gets flowers and gets their cap presented to them – I remember just laying on the table bawling my eyes out going, ‘Why, why is this happening?’.
They wanted to get a photo but I couldn’t even look at the camera. It was a terrible moment, and it was heartbreaking for me because obviously I was out for World Cup.
My other major injury was last year. I was out for three months with bone bruising in my femur and tibia. Only three months! Ha! Well, it was better than 12 months.
— Westfield Matildas (@TheMatildas) April 1, 2021
A LEGACY THAT NEVER ENDS
Jordan, where the Matildas are currently playing the Asian Cup, is definitely different from most places that we visit. We’re very familiar with Asian countries, but Jordan is an eye-opener. I’m from the Gold Coast where everyone lives in shorts and bikinis and body image isn’t a thing, whereas here obviously you have to cover up. If we go for a coffee, we can wear shirts but no singlets, no tight clothing, that sort of thing.
In terms of football, we want to develop as a team together and build on the momentum that we have.
The dynamic in the team is fantastic. The last time I was at a tournament with the team was the Olympics. The dynamic then was great. We had so much momentum qualifying for the Olympics for the first time in 12 years, and then made the quarters before we unfortunately lost in a penalty shootout. But the desire and the want from the team was massive, and now we want to do even better.
I remember bawling my eyes out going ‘Why, why is this happening?’.
What we achieved was great, but I think it ignited the fire in everyone’s stomach a lot more. Last year, we really cemented the Matildas’ name. This year, we want to make it a banner over every single thing that we possibly can. That’s what we’re working on. We want to make a legacy that never ends, and to do that, the Matildas have to keep performing and achieving better things.
There’s so much depth in this squad that whoever gets the nod on the field is going to get the job done.
As for me, I want to achieve lots of things in life. I’m pretty stoked with what I’ve achieved so far given what I’ve gone through. I wanted to own my own house, so at 24 I did that. Then I injured my knee two weeks later and went through tough times financially, but I worked my arse off doing three nursing jobs.
— Casey Dumont (@CaseyDumont) April 2, 2021
I love nursing. I guess I’ve always had that caring nature of looking after others. I’m a pretty bad patient myself – nurses often are – but I really enjoy looking after others, I just love it.
Obviously, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. I’ve had my own mental demons. Some days they are brutal and I’ll admit I don’t make it through But then it’s a new day and I guess I’ve got to go with that quote, ‘It’s OK not to be OK’.
I know there are other people suffering, and I hope one day I get the courage to have an ambassador role and tell people that it is OK not to be OK. If you ask people, they’ll say that every time I get injured I disappear. I’m coming to terms with the fact that to be able to move on and get better and improve your own health, you have to talk to others and ask for help.
There’s been a lot of other shit that I’ve had to get past in my life, and there have been people that I wish I’d never met and things that should never happen to anyone. But you just learn to deal with it. I’m not a quitter.
I have the mindset that I want to achieve what I want to achieve. It can be done. Nothing can stop me.