Heather Garriock, one of Australia’s most decorated footballers, is now the CEO of Australian Taekwondo. It was a career move that raised eyebrows, but one that is proving to be a master stroke.
Garriock is thriving in the role she started in late last year, and is already having an impact that is shaking up the taekwondo community, and revitalising a sport that has a relatively low profile in Australia.
Her success will not come as a surprise to many, with those in the know touting Garriock as having the potential to be one of the country’s top sports administrators one day.
“It is a role that is perfect for me right now,” said Garriock, who is also working as a commentator for Optus Sports during the European Championships.
“I still have an involvement in football of course, but I am absolutely loving being involved in the Australian taekwondo community.
“It is a sport and community I am completely invested in, and proud to be a part of. I am learning every day about the potential we have, and I can see a great future for the sport.
“We have fabulous athletes from the community level to the international stage. I am enjoying playing my part in helping them achieve their dreams.”
Helping others achieve their dreams is something that resonates close to her heart, with Garriock herself earning 130 caps for the Matildas, as well as winning a number of trophies in a glittering playing career that spanned 19 years.
(Photo by Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)
Born and bred in Campbelltown, Garriock was part of the 2010 Asian Cup triumph with the Matildas, the first time an Australian senior national team conquered Asia. She also won six domestic trophies in Australia, Denmark and Sweden.
She is a dual Olympian, being part of the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympic teams. She also went to the 2003 and 2007 World Cups.
It is an impressive CV and one that Garriock feels privileged to have achieved.
“I was lucky to live out my dream, I got to travel the world and play a sport that I loved. I now have the honour of helping other athletes achieve their own goals,” she said.
“To me though, success is not just about getting to the highest level or winning trophies, it is about achieving your potential as an individual and helping influence the achievements of others.
“In my role with Australian Taekwondo, I get the privilege of impacting the lives of others in a positive way. I want to work from the ground up. I get to see athletes achieve at the local level right through to the international level. How good is that?”
Garriock’s leadership credentials were built on the playing field, and she carried this on beyond the white line, taking up coaching after hanging up the boots.
She was the NPL NSW Women’s Coach of the Year in 2014 with Sydney Uni, a club that has a history of producing quality W-League and international footballers. She was also an assistant for the Matildas in 2017 before taking up a head coaching role with Canberra United in the W-League.
She is also vice-president of Football Coaching Australia (FCA), an organisation that acts as a type of union for professional football coaches in Australia.
“Coaching was something I wanted to do after playing, still being involved in football was important to me,” explained Garriock.
“I loved the tactical side of football but also developing players and having an influence.
“It was something I thoroughly enjoyed, and my role with FCA is very much about advocating for coaches and their rights.”
Advocating for rights is something Garriock is famous for, and something that current and future woman footballers in Australia are eternally grateful for.
In 2013, only 11 months after Garriock had become a mother, she was selected to play for Australia on a two-week tour of the USA. At the time, Football Australia did not cover the cost of a player travelling with a child, with Garriock’s mother accompanying her on the trip at her own expense.
The cost of looking after her child exceeded what she was paid for representing her country.
“It was a challenging time, being a mum came first so I was always going to take my baby daughter on the trip. It would have been nice at the time to have support from my employer,” she said.
“Thankfully the PFA helped me at the time, but I was determined that future footballers who are mothers wouldn’t have to go through the same issue.
“It was important to draw attention to an important issue. It was important that a professional sporting body like Football Australia, who asked players to represent their country, also supported mothers who were footballers.
“I was passionate about shaping policies that helped women athletes juggle their every day lives with their sporting career.”
(Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Garriock’s fight, and that of other footballers who were parents, was finally won in 2018 when the CBA between PFA and Football Australia incorporated maternity and parental support.
She would become somewhat of a pioneer for women athletes who have children, with a number of sporting bodies, including Cricket Australia, the Women’s National Basketball League and AFLW to name a few, all implementing maternity support policies for female players.
The same determination that Garriock showed in this battle, will hold her in good stead as she embraces sports administration.
She has already made significant changes to taekwondo, moving the sport into a dynamic and exciting new era. Many in the taekwondo community are lauding her impact already, with the sport set to enjoy plenty of attention at Tokyo 2021.
Garriock has big plans for the sport, and is not backward in coming forward about what she hopes to achieve.
“There are 208 member nations that are part of World Taekwondo. It truly is a world wide sport,” she said.
“In Asia and Europe it is a leading sport. I don’t see any reason why we can’t have a bigger profile here in Australia.
“Im loving the challenge of making this happen, we have so many in our community committed to this, and they inspire me every day.”