She may be in the twilight of her glittered career, but Michelle Carney remains as determined as ever to help the Stingrays win an elusive title.
The veteran and her Illawarra Women's National Premier League One teammates returned to training on Tuesday evening after restrictions eased across NSW.
While she may turn 39 later this year, and has achieved most things in the women's game, Carney told the Mercury that the idea of retiring had "never crossed my mind" during the shutdown period.
"I think it's actually made me hungrier," the Stingrays striker/midfielder said.
"It's funny, we're in group chats and a lot of the girls say that they can't wait to get back. It does make you hungrier and you really do miss it. With everything going on, you stay positive that the world will eventually come back.
"For now, we're back at training in three small groups of eight and obviously we've got to stick to the guidelines. We've had a long break after doing a hard pre-season and then having to stop. We've got to re-start again and it's good to be back."
With everything going on, you stay positive that the world will eventually come back.Michelle Carney
It's been nearly a decade since the Rays won the title, after being back-to-back premiers in 2010 and 2011.
Carney has been there during that premiership drought. In fact, she's a foundation player with the club, which formed in 2006.
Carney has juggled her Stingrays commitments with stints at W-League clubs Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers. But she faces a new challenge in 2020.
With new coach Bruce Tilt at the helm and a crop of young talent eager to shine, plus the addition of Canberra United W-League trio Olivia Price, Lauren Keir and Sally James, Carney's experience will be as crucial as ever.
"We recruited some younger ones from Canberra, they wanted to come over to the NPL because they think it's going to challenge them. It's good for the club, it's looking promising," she said.
"I obviously want to lead by example. My main focus is to help bring the young ones up and push them along because there's a lot of talent here. We had a really good pre-season and good form in our trials. The squad was looking good, looking fit. Hopefully we can continue on with what we had in the pre-season.
"I like a winning mentality and it's obviously been a while since the Stingrays won the finals, so that's a big motivation. We've definitely had the squad but we've just been unlucky a lot of years with injury and depth."
While happy to be back at training, Carney said it remained "up in the air" when the season would get under way.
"Just by whispers, we've heard and end of June or start of July [return]," Carney said.
"But we don't know if it will be one round [against each team], or two rounds and extended until November. That's the frustrating bit about it all, not knowing. But we'll work with what we can now. Hopefully, in two weeks, it can be contact and bigger groups [at training]. I think it will be week by week where we're at."
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