To become one of Melbourne Victory’s stars, Kyra Cooney-Cross first had to leave them.
To take the next step in her career, she’ll have to leave again.
But first, the 20-year-old will attempt to leave a lasting legacy in the form of back-to-back A-League Women championships when Victory play Sydney FC in the grand final in Sydney on Sunday.
Cooney-Cross joined Victory under Jeff Hopkins as a precocious 15-year-old in 2017, making her A-League Women debut and scoring her first league goal that year.
But after only four games in her second season, she spent a year on loan at Western Sydney in 2019-20, which proved a breakout year.
“Jeff first signed me at 15 and he gave me my first time in the W-League, he gave me a chance, the experience,” Cooney-Cross told AAP.
“The following season I didn’t play and going to Wanderers that next season was probably the best decision because Dean (Heffernan) played me every game.
“Ever since then, things just happened for me.”
Cooney-Cross had a glittering 2020-21 season back at Victory, culminating in scoring an Olimpico – a goal directly from a corner kick – for an extra-time winner in last season’s grand final.
A standout 2021 delivered a debut Matildas call-up and Olympics campaign, while this year will involve the next step: moving to Europe.
After Sunday’s grand final, Cooney-Cross will depart Victory for Hammarby, alongside teammate Courtney Nevin.
The Swedish club chased the pair for several years and finally secured their signatures, with a helping hand from injured Matildas veteran Elise Kellond-Knight.
“This season I’ve felt ready to leave,” Cooney-Cross said.
“I don’t think I’ve had the greatest season but I think that’s a sign for me to get out of here.”
Cooney-Cross hasn’t been Victory’s star this season but has attempted to shrug off patchy form and instead home in on playing where she’s needed, be it as a defensive midfielder, playmaker or winger.
“I said ‘Jeff, wherever you need me, I’ll play anywhere,'” she said.
“Even if a full-back goes down, I’ll try and play there.”
This could be Cooney-Cross’ final ALW season, at least for now, as she eyes making an impact at Hammarby and then firing ahead of the 2023 Women’s World Cup and 2024 Olympics.
It’s one she wants to end on a high note.
“Winning the grand final last season was definitely up there with one of the best moments of my life,” Cooney-Cross said.
“Sydney are a really tough side, they’ve got heaps of experienced players and Matildas, so it’s going to be tough. Obviously they’ve done really well this season.
“But we’re in form right now.”
And if there’s any corners when things get tight, Cooney-Cross isn’t afraid to step up and go for an elusive Olimpico once more.
“I’ll definitely be practicing them this week.”