World Cup bound
By GREG WHITE
THE road is long from Repton to Russia but Qantas Young Matilda's supersub Jenna Tristram won't be troubled by distance when she hits the trail in August, chasing glory at the FIFA under 20's Women's World Football Championships.
A gamble taken to delay university studies for a shot at a world title paid off this week when Tristram played a dramatic role in making her team the first Australian's to qualify for a FIFA World Cup through the Asian Football Confederation.
"I still can't believe it's all real," an excited Tristram told the Coffs Coast Advocate after jetting home from Kuala Lumpur.
"We were so nervous knowing the playoff against Japan was our last chance to make it to Russia.
"Having to come from behind twice was nervewracking but we made it."
On a hot Malaysian night and with the Young Matilda's trailing the Japanese 2-1, coach Alistair Edwards called Tristram into the game five minutes after half time.
"He told me before the match I'd be making an appearance," she said.
"Alistair calls me his impact player."
And what an impact.
In the 75th minute, Tristram collected a cross kick from Leah Blayney eight metres from the box, then took a shot that gave the keeper no chance.
Within eight minutes, Collette McCallum etched her name in football folklore by slamming home the winner sending Australia on the history-making road to Russia.
The Young Matilda's join AFC champions China and North Korea in the World Championships from August 17 to September 3.
Along with the host nation, other participants are Canada, USA, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, New Zealand, France, Germany, Finland and Switzerland plus two African qualifiers in the 16-nation tournament.
"It was so unexpected there wasn't even an itinerary for the trip," Tristram revealed.
"As soon as the game was over the manager was on the plane to Russia to organise the schedule."
Tristram's parents, Bev and Peter will also make the trek from Repton to Russia as a homegrown cheer squad, just as soon as they come down from Cloud Nine.
"Jenna rang seconds after the game finished and we could hardly hear for all the noise and cheering," mum Bev said proudly.
"She's worked so hard for this, ever since she was a tiny, little girl.
"We can hardly believe her dream has finally come true."
In the leadup to takeoff, Tristram will attend a searching series of training camps at the Australian Institute of Sport.