Matildas star Hayley Raso has hit the ground running at Everton, helping the club to an unbeaten start in England’s FA Women’s Super League season.
Raso has been earning rave reviews for her performances in the Toffees’ opening two wins, a 4-0 demolition of Bristol City and a 1-0 victory over Tottenham.
Everton is of course where Tim Cahill became a fan favourite in the 2000s, and now another Australian is out to win the hearts of the blue half of Merseyside.
“There’s big things at this club,” Raso told The World Game.
“Tim Cahill played here and he’s a legend over in Australia. For me, coming over here was just about pushing myself and being at a club that would help me do that.
“I’m just really excited to be here. Everything here’s top-notch and that’s what I really love about it. I’m absolutely loving it, I’ve settled in really well.
“The girls are all great. The staff, the facilities, everything’s been exceptional and then we’ve started the season with two wins and we haven’t conceded, so it’s a really good start. I’m really enjoying myself at the moment.”
Raso signed with the Toffees in January from Brisbane Roar but a broken nose while away on Matildas duty, and then the advent of COVID-19, meant her debut had to wait until earlier this month.
“It took me nine months to finally make my debut but I broke my nose and had surgery,” she explained.
“Then COVID happened and I ended up flying back to Australia and just waiting everything out there. For me, it took a long time but it was worth the wait. It’s third time lucky.
“I’m just so glad to finally be here, to be in training and be playing games with the club.”
Everton sit in second place on the Women’s Super League ladder with six points, the same as league leaders Arsenal, after two rounds.
The club were promoted back into the top division three years ago and Raso believes the Blues can challenge for the title in 2020-21.
“Of course. For every athlete and professional footballer the goal is to win trophies and do well,” the 26-year-old said.
“We have really high ambitions, we’ve got a really great squad. People are fighting for positions week-in-week-out and the league’s really competitive as well, but I think we have a squad that can kind of go all the way.
“So for us we’re aiming high and we’re looking good to start off the season. We just take it one game at a time, but not conceding is great for us.
“Winning two games right off the bat is a great way to start off the season and set our sights on how we want to continue. We’ve started off with two wins and we want to keep pushing.”
Raso arrived in the UK after a long career in the W-League and America’s National Women’s Soccer League.
The winger, who debuted for Canberra United in 2011, has won W-League premierships with both the Roar and United, as well as a championship with the ACT club in 2012.
She has also spent time with the Washington Spirit and Portland Thorns in the US, winning a championship and a shield with Portland.
Capped 46 times for the Matildas, Raso was keen to come to England for a new challenge.
“I obviously played in the W-League for a long time and played in the NWSL for five years, but for me, I just wanted to push myself and experience something new,” she admitted.
“At the World Cup in France just recently you could see the development of the European teams and how far they’ve come technically, physically, and it was somewhere I wanted to be.
“I wanted to come to Europe and push myself and test myself in a new environment. England was appealing to me, I watched a lot of games and liked the style of play, and it just seemed like a good fit for me.
“In America, it’s quite a fast league, they’re all built as athletes. Whereas here, it’s very physical, I quite like the technical aspect of the game.
“Training is really competitive, the sessions are really high, the intensity is strong. But it’s not too different, for me, another similarity is the competitiveness.
“You don’t really know who’s going to play on any given day and that’s something you can see with all the teams in the WSL.”
Raso is one of a number of Australian players and coaches currently plying their trade in the WSL.
Arsenal are coached by Joe Montemurro and have Matildas Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley and Lydia Williams on their books, while Sam Kerr is at Chelsea, Alanna Kennedy is at Spurs, West Ham have the trio of Jacynta Galabadaarachchi, Mackenzie Arnold and Emily van Egmond, and Bristol City are coached by Tanya Oxtoby and have Ella Mastrantonio and Chloe Logarzo in their squad.
“There’s been a lot of Aussies coming over,” Raso said.
“It’s actually really nice knowing you’ve got your national teammates close by. It’s nice to be able to talk to them about things off the pitch, but then you get on that pitch and it’s that white line fever – no friends.
“But it’s really nice to have familiar faces around the country, especially being so far away from home.
The striker believes having so many Australians playing in England and across Europe will only benefit the national team in the long run.
“I think that having all of our national team girls overseas and developing themselves and playing competitive games regularly is a huge boost for us,” she said.
“So when we are able to come back together, circumstances permitting, as a team I think we’ll be flying.
"Its nice to know all the girls are in those competitive environments and playing regularly, so I think it will only boost our national team.”