Sport

Matildas Olympic Games qualifiers: Ashleigh Sykes considers leaving W-League

Canberra United star Ashleigh Sykes is considering leaving the W-League next season and could test herself in Europe.

The in-form striker had a change of heart to answer an SOS to be a late addition to the Matildas squad for their Olympic qualifying campaign in Japan, starting against the hosts on Monday.

Canberra United's Ashleigh Sykes has been called into the Matildas squad for next week's Olympic qualifiers in Japan.
Canberra United's Ashleigh Sykes has been called into the Matildas squad for next week's Olympic qualifiers in Japan. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Sykes was called into the Matildas after an injury to Larissa Crummer after previously making herself unavailable for the national team.

The 24-year-old is coming off another impressive season for Canberra United in which she was named the club's player of the year for the second straight time.

Sykes has been with Canberra for all eight seasons of the W-League and said she was no guarantee to return next season.

"I haven't really settled on if I am going to come back and play for Canberra or the W-League," Sykes said.

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"I'm just playing it by ear and take myself whereever my heart desires at the moment.

"At this stage of my life where I want to experiment with football and learn as much as I can.

"If that journey takes me to Europe or anywhere else in the world or back to the W-League, so be it."

Sykes was in Japan for a week training with her new club AS Harima Albion – located about two hours south of Osaka – before receiving the call-up from the Matildas.

After the Olympic qualifying tournament, Sykes will remain in Japan for the second division season, which runs until September or October.

Sykes made herself unavailable for the national team at the end of last year after admitting to struggling with the pressures of a high-performance environment.

But she decided to reverse her stance when receiving a call from Matildas coach Alen Stajcic asking her to return after the injury to Crummer.

"I think a little bit of time away from the Matildas certainly helped me to clear my head," she said.

"At the time, I wasn't really sure what I wanted and I didn't think it was fair to work on stuff while trying to compete for a spot in the national team.

"I feel like I've grown a lot and learnt a lot about myself and working towards the Olympics.

"It wasn't either of our plans to be back in so soon, but I had to say yes because I feel there is a duty to Australia if they're in need of it."

The Matildas have a gruelling task to qualify for their first Olympic Games in 12 years.

They play five games in the space of 10 days, a torrid workload that is expected to have all 20 players in the squad called upon at some stage.

"Everyone will probably be needed at some point, it's a really tough schedule," Sykes said.

"Everyone wants to qualify for the Olympics. It's a major goal and it's going to be a tough ask for us.

"Everyone wants to chase that Olympic dream and get to Rio."