Hayley Raso: Everton's forgotten weapon who waited seven months for her debut
When Hayley Raso signed for Everton, she became just the third Australian in the Women’s Super League, after Chelsea made headlines with the transfer of Sam Kerr and Jacynta Galabadaarachchi joined West Ham.
“It’s a little bit of a running joke. The girls said to me they didn’t even think I was real because I never showed up!” Raso laughed.
The winger’s arrival was delayed by an international call-up initially; then, during her duties for Australia, she suffered a broken nose that required surgery.
“The third time I finally came over after Olympic qualifying and I got a message before my first training session telling me not to come in,” she explained.
“I was really excited to get involved and then everything just shut down which was pretty disappointing.
“But I’m just really happy to be back now, back training and everything’s going smooth at the moment.”
With so many new arrivals, and 233 days separating the announcement of Raso’s signing and her competitive Everton debut, it’s easy to forget that the 26-year-old is one of the most exciting imports to the WSL in 2020.
The former Portland Thorns winger has certainly made up for lost time, too. She’s been one of the Toffees’ stand-out performers in their first two games, helping Willie Kirk’s side to back-to-back wins.
Her pace in behind, the danger she poses driving with the ball and her incredible work-rate make her a superb team-mate, one who causes opponents all sorts of problems.
“We’ve been speaking to Hayley and Hayley’s agent since September,” Kirk told Goal, explaining the effort put into securing her signature.
During those months, Kirk tasked one of his close friends, Ian McCaldon, the goalkeeper coach at Raso’s former club, the Washington Spirit, with “finding out about her character”. Nothing but good things were reported back.
“She’s a great personality. She’s a top, top player,” he said.
In between loans to clubs back home, Raso has spent the last four years at the Portland Thorns, winning both the NWSL Championship and Shield.
But the biggest impression she leaves in Oregon is one off the pitch, endearing herself massively to the club’s huge fanbase, who voted her their Most Valuable Player in 2017.
“I think I just like to give back. I spend a lot of time after games with the fans, making sure I can see and talk to as many fans as I can,” Raso explained.
“Off the field, that sort of community engagement, I really enjoy helping out people, going to hospitals, doing different things like that just to help out the community. I think that boosted how I was seen by the fan base.”
The support for her in Portland was clear when, in August 2018, she fractured three vertebrae, admitting fears that she wouldn’t be able to walk again.
For the Thorns’ next game, the forward was sat in her hospital bed watching on – and the fans knew full well that would be the case, singing their support for her to hear.
“It actually just gave me goosebumps, you talking about it,” Raso said. “It was so incredible and meant so much to me.
“It was physically challenging and I know everyone knows that. The mental side was tough for me, but I have a lot of mental strength and I think that got me through it in the end.”
Those qualities – qualities that helped her return to the pitch in time to push herself into the Australia squad for the 2019 Women's World Cup – will have earned her more rave reviews when Kirk was scouting the winger.
They will also be important to helping Everton achieve the goals they have set out for this season.
On Sunday, they have a chance to strive further towards the latter when Raso faces one of her Matildas team-mates, Kerr, in Everton’s FA Women’s Cup quarter-final with WSL champions Chelsea.
“I’ve never played in a cup before so I’m really excited to be playing against Chelsea and hopefully we can try and win that game and try and get to Wembley,” Raso said.
“It would be a huge statement. It’s kind of necessary for us too if we do want to show that we’re going to be pushing for a top spot.”
Source : goal.com
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