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Canberra United stars rise to tackle new rivals

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Caitlin Cooper and Michelle Heyman.

Caitlin Cooper and Michelle Heyman. Photo: Gary Schafer

Michelle Heyman and Caitlin Cooper will take on the team they turned down when Canberra United play the Western Sydney Wanderers in Campbelltown on Sunday, with bragging rights on the line as well as the three points.

When the Wanderers joined the W-League earlier this year, inaugural coach Steve Roche had the two key players on his radar to poach from the defending champions.

Both had played under him at the Central Coast Mariners before the side folded. Cooper captained the side for two seasons and Heyman won W-League player of the year and the Golden Boot in her season with the club.

Understandably, Roche was keen to convince them to return to his new side, offering bigger pay packets than United, as well as the promise of playing with friends.

But for Heyman, the decision to stay in Canberra was simple and one she is still happy she made.

''Most definitely, I'd never pick money over Canberra, I think it's like a family,'' Heyman said in her third season in the capital.

But Heyman's connection to the Wanderers players hasn't ceased, as the striker keeps in close contact with her friends, and an eye on how they are going in the side's first year in the league.

''All my best mates are in the team, so I talk to them after every one of their games to see how they're going and stuff, and they've been going pretty good,'' Heyman said.

Heyman wasn't at her athletic best last week against Adelaide. Her knee was heavily strapped following a collision with the Newcastle goalkeeper in their 5-0 win in round two.

''I did a grade one [tear] to my medial [ligament] and hyperextended my knee - the keeper came out and smashed me. I shouldn't have been playing [against Adelaide], I went and got cortisone injections to get the swelling down and stuff like that - it seemed fine, I took some painkillers,'' she said.

Having taken a week off work, and ''icing 24/7'', the striker is ready to take on her old mates.

While United remains undefeated and at the top of the W-League ladder, the Wanderers won their first game last weekend, a 2-0 defeat of Perth Glory when midfielder Trudy Camilleri scored both goals.

''She's been a stand-out player for them which is great to see,'' Heyman said of her former Mariners teammate.

''I think she might be one of the most dangerous players for us to look out for in this game.''

Heyman and Cooper were able to supply thorough reports on the players and the opposing coach before the game, but know the scouting goes both ways.

''We've got a lot on them, but they have the same on us as well, and I guess Rochey, the coach, he knows me and [Cooper] very well, so I think he will plan to not let us have the ball,'' Heyman said.

It's a situation Heyman has found herself in a lot this year, attracting plenty of extra attention after claiming her second Golden Boot last season.

''It's kind of getting a bit difficult, I've always got a couple of players on my back and then one always coming in front of me and it's kind of annoying, but then it's amazing because I'm taking out a couple of players,'' she said.

The result has been a big spread of goal-scorers, as United's eight goals have come from eight players, including two key defenders in Cooper and Ellie Brush last week.

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