Bray’s goalkeeping brilliance shines at the National Youth Championships

Northern NSW young gun Caoimhe Bray was awarded the under-14 group A Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the 2023 National Youth Championships for Girls on Friday. 

The Newcastle Jets Academy goalkeeper was recognised for her standout performances throughout the week-long tournament that saw the best young footballers in each federation go head-to-head.

Bray was thrilled to receive such a prestigious award after a successful individual and team performance throughout the tournament. 

“I felt like I had a decent competition but don’t know if I was expecting it or not. When they called my name, I was like woah this is actually happening,” Bray said. 

“It is one of the bigger awards that I have won and was an exciting experience. It was great to be recognised with that award, especially with the Matildas goalkeeping coach watching on.

“One of my favourite parts of the competition was the way that our team got on. I’ve made a lot of new friends for life. It was also amazing to have the opportunity to compete against teams of a high standard. It is definitely a step up from the Sydney competitions. But Northern NSW proved that we were a good side.” 

Bray was selected for the award through Football Australia identification staff along with consultation with Northern NSW Football Technical Director Ryan Doidge.

Doidge was delighted that Bray was formally recognised for her achievements on the national stage. 

“[It was a] superb achievement for Caoimhe and very well deserved for her efforts throughout the tournament,” Doidge said. 

“We have enjoyed watching her development with the Newcastle Jets over the last 12 months. Northern NSW Football were delighted to have the opportunity to take her to the National Youth Championships where she was able to showcase her abilities against some of the best teams and players from across the nation.

“It is great that Football Australia were able to acknowledge her talent and I was happy to link in with Tony Franken and Trinity Allen to discuss Caoimhe’s progress throughout the week.

“I look forward in continuing to watch her development and I wish her all the best.”

Bray also received heavy praise from Football Australia’s Head of Goalkeeping and CommBank Matildas’ Goalkeeper Coach Tony Franken. 

“[Tony] said that what gave me the edge on everyone else was in the game against NSW Metro how I dealt with the ball seven times up high on the pitch near the goals. He couldn’t believe how much I was playing beyond my years,” Bray said. 

The 14-year-old began her goalkeeping journey at her junior club Muswellbrook Eagles FC and now travels from Denman to Newcastle to train five days a week as a part of the Newcastle Jets Academy.

“At Muswellbrook, we would all take turns in goals and one day I went in and did really well. The opposition coach said to me that I should be a goalkeeper and then I played some games in goals for the Emerging Jets before being selected in their Academy as a full-time goalkeeper,” Bray said. 

“With morning trainings at the Jets I miss the morning sessions at school and it can be over two hours home one way some Friday afternoons which is a lot. The travel is a big commitment for my parents but not so much for me because I love the sport so much.” 

The multi-disciplined athlete also plays in the top levels of cricket, competing in the Newcastle Women’s T20 Division 1 cricket competition and the Brewer Shield Under-18s NSW Premier Cricket competition. 

But despite her busy schedule Bray isn’t looking to slow down with big aspirations to excel on the national and international sporting stage. 

“One of my big goals is to make the Matildas squad. Ellyse Perry is my idol and I would love to represent my country in both football and cricket. I want to dream big,” Bray said.

“I am hoping to be selected in a Junior Matildas camp. It would be amazing to actually get picked and then as the years go on keep improving and hopefully make it in the Matildas line up.

“I also want to play in the A-Leagues for the Jets with the experienced players. To make it into the women’s team all the way from their academy would be great.”