Hayley Raso has been in dynamic form for Canberra United. Photo: Getty Images
Don't let the sweet facade of the big green hair ribbon fool you - there is nothing soft about Hayley Raso.
Still only 18 and just finished high school, ''Ribby'' or ''Ribbons'' as she's known, has forged her place in the Canberra United attack and is the team's equal-leading goal scorer for the season, along with veteran Caitlin Munoz, with four apiece.
Recognised for her pace down the wing as well as her trademark green ribbon, Raso contributed to three of United's five goals against the Western Sydney Wanderers on Tuesday and spent her fair share of time in the dirt, drawing countless fouls from desperate defenders.
As the Queenslander prepares to play her first W-League game in her home state, she admits she will be playing with something to prove after being turned away from the Queensland Academy of Sport as a national junior representative.
''It was tough trialling and never getting in there, but coming down to Canberra and having the opportunity to do it down here has been great,'' Raso said.
''This year my confidence has definitely built up, playing with these girls has increased that as well. Now I get the ball, I'm confident of what to do, where to run and what not.''
The Queensland Academy of Sport rejection led her to trial with United in 2011, with coach Jitka Klimkova spotting the talent in Raso that has become so evident on the field.
''I saw huge potential in her last year, but you know the first year here she just needed the time to adapt to the team more,'' Klimkova said
''This year … after her school, when she finished and stayed with us every week and really focused just on football I think that was huge for her … her performance game after game is better and better.''
Raso's ability to beat her Wanderers opponents with speed and get up when she was knocked to the ground is a sign of the way Klimkova wants her team to play.
''We are a tough team, and I think this game [against the Wanderers] was just the evidence of that,'' the Czech coach said.
''We knew if we were soft we couldn't beat them.
''Sometimes it hurts, because it's not chess, it's football.''
She knows her team needs to take that toughness into the Brisbane game, the grand-final rematch a must-win for the reigning premier to guarantee a finals berth.
''If we play this style on Saturday, we can beat Brisbane, we can beat everyone if we play like that. We have to be tough … we'll put everything on the field,'' Klimkova said.
''Really, for us it should be like the grand final.''
For Raso, it will be her chance to play in front of family and friends.
The short turnaround between games will give her less time to recover from the bruises, cramps and knocks that saw her receive on-field attention from the physiotherapist, but she's no stranger to playing through pain.
Raso, twice capped by the Matildas, will have surgery at the end of the season to improve circulation and relieve pressure in her shins from chronic compartment syndrome, then start a degree in paramedicine in Queensland for the off-season.