Cop out

Coach contends Const. Harris was overlooked by Canadian soccer

John Browne
Published on July 20, 2013

Her coach is adamant she’s been shafted by the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA), and he’s more than upset about it.

Malorie Harris also feels she’s been snubbed, but she doesn’t seem quite as perturbed as her coach.

Not even close.

“If there was ever an injustice in the history of Canadian soccer,” C.B.S. Holy Cross Kirby Group coach Dragan Mirkovic says bluntly, “its name is Malorie Harris.”

Mirkovic says Harris has been “criminally underrated and neglected” over the years by the CSA (ironically enough, Harris is a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary police officer).

“It costs $3,000 for the CSA to bring Malorie into one of the numerous camps that have been held with different age groups over the years, and they’ve failed to do so,” Mirkovic said.

Malorie Harris would have loved to have been given a chance to open some eyes at a national camp, and she still hasn’t given up on getting a look one of these years.

“It has bothered me,” admitted Harris, “but I have only myself to blame. I’ve tried to make national teams, going back to my university years. And I’ve had injury problems as well. It’s still a goal of mine but, as I get older, those chances are less and less, I guess.

“Maybe if we go to the nationals this year someone will look at me,” she said.

No matter, she appreciates coachDragan Mirkovic’s support.

For his part, Mirkovic still gets hot under the collar when he talks about how Harris has been ignored by the national body.

“If Christine Sinclair was Malorie Harris living in Newfoundland and Malorie was Christine growing in British Columbia,” Mirkovic says in comparing Harris to the national women’s team star, “nothing would have been changed. Christine would have been overlooked, and Malorie would have been a great international player.

“I see no difference, except Sinclair being stronger in the air. But then, Malorie is absolutely devastating with her pace and ability to run at players with thunderous speed.”

 Mirkovic said players such as Harris and teammate Laura Breen have the intangibles that sets them apart from others.

It’s a result of a love affair between the player and the ball, he says, and that’s why these two players have been able to separate themselves from other female players in the province.

“As a coach, you feel privileged to coach players like Malorie or Laura.

Angry at CSA

“This is where my anger at Canadian soccer comes from,” added Mirkovic, “as over the years, it’s been a parade of industrial, manufactured players who can be gritty and can scrap and claw, but a very few creative players. Not creative in terms of manipulating the ball, but creative at the highest speed.

“We whine and cry over the lack of creative and effective play in front of the net and when you finally get someone with natural speed, instincts and sixth sense, you quickly dismiss them by some powerful, big players who can’t do a thing against quick and intelligent defenders.”

Mirkovic said Holy Cross of the provincial Breen’s Jubilee Trophy women’s league needed someone to step forward more than ever this season, and Harris has supplied the leadership.

“The team needed someone who was able to bring the laugh into the dressing room and remind us all why this is called the beautiful game.

“In every game we played Malorie, her heart was on fire with curiosity and more importantly she was able to communicate that excitement to others,” said Mirkovic.

The Holy Cross coach said that’s a great quality, and it’s very rare as a coach one gets that kind of help.

 And she’s not done yet, according to Mirkovic.

“The best goals and games are still in her and it’s sad that more people in this country don’t get a chance to enjoy those moments.”

Playing at her best

Meanwhile, Breen, who has played with Harris since they were both 14, says her teammate has never been better.

“This is by far the best season she has ever had,” Breen said.

“Everything seems to be coming together for her. She's fit, working hard, and scoring goals. There is no one in this league right now who can keep up with her. It’s so much fun watching her play.”

While Harris hasn’t caught the attention of the mainland powers-that-be, she’s left her mark on provincial soccer over the past several seasons.

Harris, who scored 13 goals in her first 12 games this season, has won the scoring title the past three seasons and has scored 84 goals since 2009.

At 26, she’s at the prime of her soccer playing career and she admits she’s playing some of her best ball these days.

“I’m doing better when it comes to finishing,” said the modest athlete.

You’d never know it by her statistics, but Harris feels she should have been putting the ball in the back of the net more often over the years given the scoring chances she’s had.    

Harris said she seems to be scoring on one out of two chances instead of one out of five in previous years.

No pressure

She said the reason she’s been putting the ball in the net on a regular basis in 2013 is because coach Mirkovic hasn’t put any pressure on her.

“I used to feel a lot pressure on having to score and focused on it too much,” explained Harris. “Now I’m just playing and letting it happen.”

The former high school standout at Mount Pearl Senior High went on to star for the Memorial Sea-Hawks’ Atlantic University Sport (AUS) team where she was an all-star every season as a midfielder.

She made the second-all star team in 2005 and followed that up with four straight seasons as an AUS first-team all-star.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association’s 2012 senior female player of the year, Harris earned the Jubilee Trophy regular-season MVP honours last season.

A centre midfield most of her career, it’s only recently that she’s getting comfortable with her forward role.

“It’s completely different,” said Harris, who confessed she really didn’t enjoy playing at forward last year. “I was used playing  in centre of the field … having the control and dishing the ball off. It’s been a bit of a difficult adjustment letting the girls bring the ball to me.

“I enjoy scoring and I don’t like losing. I have a tendency to get down on myself when I don’t score and I have a bad game. But Dragan has given me confidence in the position.”

Clearly, Harris wants to continue to improve her game, which she plans on playing for as long as she can.

“Until my dying days,” she says, laughing. “Maybe I’ll change my mind when I’m 30.”

But for now, she’s still working toward a Canadian championship medal, and that elusive national team tryout.