The curtain has finally come down on one of the longest careers in Football Ferns history but there are no doubts in the mind of Kirsty Yallop that now is the right time to bow out.
The veteran midfielder surprised her team mates with an impromptu announcement in the on-pitch team huddle immediately after a 5-0 loss to the USA two days ago and has not had any second thoughts since.
“I definitely think it’s time for me to step away from the Ferns, I’ve been a part of the team for 13 years now, which is a really long time,” she says.
“It’s been an amazing journey, filled with ups and downs. I’ve been so proud to be a part of this team and now I just want to start to focus on other things in life and enjoy my last year or two of playing football. It will be nice having a little bit less commitment.”
Putting an end to a remarkable international career that has brought 104 caps and 12 goals has been on the mind of the 30-year-old for some months now and may well have come sooner had circumstances been different.
“After the Olympics last year was definitely when I thought I was going to retire,” she admits.
“But then I got injured so I didn’t play as much as I would’ve liked and it just didn’t seem like it was the right time then. So I thought I’d continue playing and see how it went. I think now the time is right and I don’t want to play another full cycle so it’s a good moment to step away.”
The Football Ferns – now established in the world’s top 20 – have made staggering progress since Yallop’s first cap in 2004 and she says the set-up she is leaving is vastly different to the one she joined all those years ago.
“The team has definitely grown a lot since I’ve been in it. When I first started, we didn’t have the international exposure we have now and I think back then we didn’t really know what to expect,” she says.
“We really went out there and gave it our all but we weren’t quite up to the international standard. Since then, we’ve worked our butts off to get ourselves in shape and technically better so we could perform on the world stage. Now we have people playing professionally and it’s amazing to see what’s happened and how we’ve grown.”
Yallop is one of those players who has managed to carve a living out of the beautiful game and is looking forward to concentrating on that aspect of her footballing life. After a typically nomadic professional career that has taken in spells in Australia, the USA and Sweden, she is now based at Norwegian club Klepp, for whom she stars with her partner, Australia international Tameka Butt.
“I’m absolutely loving it – it’s going so well and we have a really good team. We’re fighting for third in the league at the moment and I’ve signed for another season there,” she says. “I still really enjoy it and I’m having a lot of fun so I want to do that for a bit longer.”
The Ferns will forever remain close to her heart though and she has many fond memories to reflect on, at the forefront of which is an important piece of history.
“I think one that will always stick out for me will be scoring that first goal at the Olympics in Beijing. It was our first Olympics and our first game and we were beating Japan 1-0,” she recalls of her significant strike in 2008. “It was a pretty simple goal but it was just so amazing at the time and I think that really started us on a journey of being able to compete at these world events.”
While she is not ready to hang up her boots completely just yet, the former Avondale College student admits her thoughts have started to turn to life after football.
“With my club in Norway, I do a lot of mentoring and strength and conditioning training with our youth players which has been fun,” she says.
“So I’ve started to make the transition a little bit in that sense and I think once I’ve finished playing I’d like to take up a strength and conditioning role with a professional sports team, I’m not sure in which sport yet but we’ll see.”
Ferns coach Tony Readings will no doubt miss the influential services of Yallop but she feels there are players on the production line who will fill the void.
“It’s a rebuilding time for the Ferns now, some older players have stepped away so there’s a lot of new young players in the squad which is exciting,” she says.
“I think it will take a little bit of time for them to find their feet but it’s promising to have those players coming through and hopefully they can do the Ferns proud.”
Kirsty Yallop Factfile
Club: Klepp IL (Norway)
Previous clubs: Lynn-Avon United (New Zealand), Pali Blues (USA), Kristianstads DFF (Sweden), Vittsjö GIK (Sweden), Brisbane Roar (Australia), Mallbackens IF (Sweden), Melbourne Victory (Australia)
‘A’ international appearances: 104
‘A’ international goals: 12
Total appearances/goals: 114/14
Major tournaments: FIFA Women’s World Cup (2011, 2015), Olympic Games (2008, 2012, 2016), New Zealand captain at FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup (2006)