Many of Lisa De Vanna’s coaches must have hated that she was one of the most talented female footballers in the world, such was the difficulty in dealing with her temperamental nature. At one point in her career it would have been easier to drop her from squads had she not been so talented. A self-confessed problem child who had been known in the past to storm off training fields over disagreements due to her confrontational manner, De Vanna was difficult to manage for many.

And, that’s exactly why many would have been shocked to have seen her named as co-captain of the Matildas as they prepare for this month’s World Cup in Canada. “In a million years I never thought I’d be in a position to be part of the leadership group,” De Vanna said. When Matildas coach Alan Stajcic took over the job last year, one of his first aims was to harness De Vanna’s fiery character into a positive force for the team.

“In the past people looked at me as disruptive and it wasn’t the right behaviour, but it was because when I put on my shirt I represent everything I love about my country,” De Vanna said. “I was just misunderstood. Now it has come to a place where I have to understand my teammates and they have to understand me. Now we have this understanding of how I deal with things and how I deal with situations.”

There is a sense of calm as De Vanna speaks and an optimism of the team’s chances in Canada. It’s part of the new-found maturity Stajcic speaks so fondly about in De Vanna’s off-field demeanour that now complements her aggressive style of play and free-scoring ability. “I think ‘Staj’ gave me that role and trusted how I deal with things. That gave me the confidence to show the team what I’m capable of, and what I want to achieve,” De Vanna said.

She was known as the striker who could score the incredible goals, test the durability of opponents shin pads and butt heads with teammates in one game. Only the latter, she says, will change. “I’ve always been that type of player, it’s just that people had this opinion and didn’t understand it. To be a good player you need to have passion and you need to be hungry and you need to understand what it means to represent your country. That’s what I put in place and that’s what ‘Staj’ put in place,” she said.