Holmes’ sacrifice sets path for success

Dylan Holmes loves representing Adelaide United.
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If you ask just about anyone in the Adelaide United squad, they will tell you that Dylan Holmes has made an impact on their life and football in some way, shape, or form.

Holmes’ natural leadership can likely be traced back to an upbringing that saw her live in four countries before settling in Adelaide, South Australia when she was 10.

Her earliest football memories are those from her backyard with her father, Steve, a mining engineer who took the family from São Paulo where Holmes was born, then to the USA, before moves to Santiago in Chile and a rougher patch in a tiny fishing town in Peru.

Holmes notes that she didn’t really have too many female role models through her football upbringing, such were the times, but knew names like Mia Hamm and Brazil’s Marta, and always admired Liverpool legend, Steven Gerrard.

When Holmes moved to Australia, she was ineligible for selection for an Under 13 National Team that went to Vietnam, yet representing her new country was a goal she knew she wanted to achieve almost immediately after settling.

It coincides with the peaceful nature of Adelaide in particular, and the rising professionalism not just within United, but around the Liberty A-League too.

“There was never really a question about which country I would play for and there was a lot of work that went into switching my allegiance to Australia,” Holmes reflected.

“I missed that Under 13 trip to Vietnam because I wasn’t an Australian citizen, and then I was actually selected for a junior Matildas camp when I was 15 but my paperwork wasn’t recognised by FIFA yet either so I couldn’t go.

“Finally I got to Vietnam when I was 17 for a Young Matildas camp, which was a surreal experience.

Dylan Holmes representing Australia against the Netherlands.

“But it was never a question and I never doubted it really, I always wanted to represent Australia.”

Holmes finally had her chance to play for her country on the big stage in April 2021 against the Netherlands, a moment she will never forget.

Despite all this and a bunch of travel and life experience found in someone twice her age, Holmes still credits her most recent international trip abroad to Sweden to play for BK Häcken, as the one that was life changing.

“It’s probably the bravest thing I’ve ever done, to move overseas by myself in the middle of a pandemic and put myself out there and challenge myself,” Holmes said.

“This was completely life-changing for me and I learnt things and lessons I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

“It was eye-opening to see a full, professional home and away season which I really wanted leading into the World Cup next year.

“In saying that, the A-League is on an incredible trajectory at the moment and all of the Matildas have been through this pathway.”

Holmes claimed her first piece of silverware as a professional footballer in the Svenska Cupen damer Cup with Häcken before returning to United, her home.

“Winning the Cup was a whirlwind honestly, because I had only just made my first start for the Club the week before,” she admitted.

“I remember thinking as well, that the only reason I had played that league game the week before was so they could freshen up the squad for the final, but when I was told I was going to be starting again, well that was quite the shock.

“We went all the way and I played the full 90 minutes so it is a day I’ll remember for a very, very long time, even though there weren’t any fans in the stadium because it was still in the middle of the pandemic.

“I even played in the Champions League as well while I was there in Sweden which was good vindication for the times I struggled, so I have no regrets and I’m able to play even more freely for United now.”

Dylan Holmes playing for BK Häcken against Olympique Lyonnais in the UEFA Women’s Champions League in 2021.

Holmes has already expressed this freedom in two starts this season, and she was named the Club’s RAA Members’ Player of the Month for a pair of faultless performances.

The 25-year-old scored the first and only goal to defeat Perth last Sunday, and she will only further lead an exhilarating and balanced Reds group as far as she possibly can.

Winning a Championship would mean so much to Holmes who was practically Aussie and, particularly, a South Aussie from the start.

Reds fans will also recall in the match before she departed, a 2-0 win against Sydney FC at the Marden Sports Complex, Holmes was swarmed by her team-mates at the final whistle following her post-game interview.

This is testament to Holmes as a true and popular team player, and Adelaide is certainly well entrenched in her DNA.

Defender Ella Tonkin singled out Holmes last week as a player she particularly admired in her rise through the junior ranks and made her feel so welcome when she signed her first contract with United.

Dylan Holmes being swarmed by teammates at the end of her last match for Adelaide United before leaving for BK Häcken.

Annalee Grove even lives with the Holmes family, and the goalkeeper feels like a “little sister” to the star midfielder.

This is particularly humbling for Holmes, who is entirely representative of the ‘family’ culture constantly seen at United and reinforced by Head Coach Adrian Stenta.

“It’s nice to hear the younger players say that and to see so many of them coming through now,” Holmes said.

“It is reminiscent for me in that period of my career, and I hope that with some of us who have gone abroad and have that experience in our mid-twenties, we can pave the way for them to do similar things as well and succeed.”

Adelaide United returns home to ServiceFM on Sunday to play an enticing encounter with first-placed newcomers, Western United.