BATHURST soccer prodigy Poppy Channing dreams of one day playing for the Matildas, but she might've taken her first step towards achieving her goal.
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Channing has been called up to a 30-player provisional Junior Matildas squad that will travel to the Gold Coast later this month, the first time the under 17s squad has got together since its success at the AFF Under 18s Women's Championships.
The squad is expected to be trimmed to 24 players this week.
The 15-year-old, who plays for Blacktown Spartans, said she was in shock when she found out she had been named in the provisional training squad.
"I was in shock. My emotions were a bit delayed. I came home from work and I screamed and then I started crying," she said.
"I stopped and then I asked mum: 'What does this all mean?' It's really exciting. It's all still a big blur because it doesn't feel real yet.
"I reflected on it and I always told everyone I wanted to be a Matilda and this is just one step further. I don't see this as my end goal. This is my first step towards getting where I want to get."
Originally a Bathurst '75 junior, Channing also played for Western NSW FC and Nepean FC, before she made the switch to Spartans for the 2022 season.
She said she's been blown away by the professionalism at Spartans.
"We've loved being at Spartans. They're a really good club and the culture is great. Even from pre-season, every team in the women's train together, from the 14s to 18s," she said.
"We got to see reserves and first grade as well. There's a few Young Matildas in the first grade team.
"We have a strength and conditioning coach Draz Bogovac and everyone loves her. She's very professional. In pre-season we have a break at Christmas and she'll send out stuff we have to do like homework. It might be sprints or other stuff. It's good because it keeps us fit. It's what made us last to the finals."
Channing said her next goal would be to get a spot in the Junior Matildas squad for the 2024 FIFA Under 17s Women's World Cup.
She said the camp on the Gold Coast will help her improve her game, as she looks towards the World Cup in two years.
"That will mean so much if I made that but obviously I have to work hard and prove myself in camp," she said.
"It'll be a lot higher level than what I'm use to. I'll be travelling out of state. It'll be a big challenge.
"I think one of the best ways I can learn is from peers and what they do. It'll be interesting to have Rae Dower. I've heard a lot about her. She's the coach and she's really nice."
Channing recently represented Football NSW Country under 16s girls at the 2022 National Youth Football Championships at Coffs Harbour in September, which was the main basis for selecting a provisional squad for the training camp.
On the trip back to Bathurst, she reflected on how far she's come since beginning her soccer career.
"On my way back from nationals, I was reflecting and thinking that I was just at '75 not too long ago. I didn't even think about being professional," she said.
"It's crazy to think how far I've come. Each year I've gotten stronger and better.
"There's been ups and downs, feeling disconnected with the community because we're not here as much. But when I come back, sometimes I'd ref and see everyone, which was really nice."
The ultimate dream would be to play for Arsenal and play alongside English international Leah Williams in the Women's Super League.
"Go the Gunners," she added.
The training camp will run from October 25 to November 5.
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