After breaking her leg as a teenager, Football Ferns star Betsy Hassett is a big advocate of injury prevention. She’s now making history on home soil at the World Cup – but one special person is sadly missing.
As the Football Ferns hop on the bus to travel into the stadium for each game at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, it’s a personal choice what they’ll be listening to as they get ready for battle.
For central midfielder Betsy Hassett, a song by Irish rock band The Script fits her story.
After what she’s been through, the emotive words of ‘I still look for your face in the crowd, if you could see me now’ sums up the moment and how the 32-year-old could be feeling.
It’s been 13 years since Betsy lost her mum. She still thinks about her every day.
“She was an amazing woman,” says Betsy, who has played over 140 internationals for New Zealand.
“If she was still alive now, she would be at every single game and supporting me every minute. She would’ve been there at this World Cup, so it’s pretty sad for me that she won’t be around for it. But I know she’ll be there in spirit.”
Betsy was only 19 when her mum passed away. She had recently moved to America to take up a scholarship at the University of California.
When her mum died, Betsy was home on a summer break. She had to return to the United States and carry on as if everything was fine.
Betsy had recently been selected in the Football Ferns squad for the first time. The support of the team got her through the hardest time in her life.
“They were like my second family and I was always looking forward to going on tour. I would meet them at different places all around the world and they would look after me,” she says.
“I was so far from home and I was going through a lot. They kept me wanting to play and got me through that rough time. I don’t know how I would have done it without them.”
A huge opportunity to make history
Now Betsy and the Ferns are looking to inspire the next generation.
They're focused on building on their historic 1-0 win over Norway at Eden Park on the opening night of the World Cup.
“One of our big team goals is to be role models for the young New Zealand girls who are watching,” Betsy says.
“We know they're looking up to us and we want to show them there is a path in football and you can compete on the world stage. We know we have a big opportunity with this tournament at home and we’re determined to make the most of it.”
The lively midfielder was all over the pitch against Norway and her relentless work-rate will be a huge factor as the Ferns look to create more history.
In a recent pre-World Cup friendly against Argentina in her hometown of Auckland, Betsy had the huge honour of wearing the captain’s armband for the first time.
“My role has changed so much. I still feel like I’m one of the young ones. But I’m actually one of the oldest in the group now. It’s a cool challenge to be a leader in our team and support others.”
‘I can still remember the tackle’
Two years before the passing of her mum, Betsy had to overcome another major setback when she suffered the worst injury of her career.
She was 17 and playing in a pre-season game for Three Kings United against fellow Auckland club Eastern Suburbs when she broke her leg.
“We both dive tackled at the same time and she came straight down onto my leg. Everyone heard the snap so it was an awful moment and I was in a lot of pain,” she remembers.
The game was stopped and an ambulance took Betsy to hospital. It was the worst possible timing.
“I was just about to move to the States for college, I was gutted. I did all of my rehab over there. It was a long process and it took two years for me to get back to the same level.”
She says the injury gave her a new perspective, even at such a young age.
“My injury and recovery made me realise how important it is to look after your body. The more fit and healthy your body is, the less likely you’re going to be injured,” she says.
The Football Ferns perform the 11+ warm-up – a key component of the ACC-supported New Zealand Football Performance and Prevention programme – every time they train and play.
The programme includes strength and conditioning components that protect players from injury, in both the short and long term.
“It’s important to do a dynamic warm-up so when it comes to training and playing you’re ready to go,” Betsy says.
“Warming up is so important, especially when you get a bit older. You really have to look after your body, so it’s great to form those good habits when you’re younger.”
Paying the price of injury
Betsy says the personal cost of her broken leg was huge. She was in the United States and totally reliant on others.
“Everyday life was definitely a challenge,” she says.
“The people around you are so important to get you through that period – your friends and teammates play a huge role in keeping you in the right headspace to stay positive.”
Unfortunately, Betsy is not alone in going through a stint on the sidelines. In 2022, ACC accepted nearly 40,000 claims for football-related injuries.
That's why ACC invests in a partnership with New Zealand Football to deliver its Performance and Prevention programme, which helps players enhance their performance and reduce the risk of injury.
“There are some unique female-specific considerations when it comes to reducing the risk of injury in sport,” ACC injury prevention partner Nat Hardaker says.
“NZ Football is doing some great work to ensure injury prevention is an integral part of the game here in New Zealand. This is critical to ensuring we can support everyone to keep playing and maximise their enjoyment of the game.”
Betsy encourages all young football players to look after their bodies.
She started doing yoga around five years ago and it’s made a big difference.
“It’s helped my body so much,” she says.
“I’m still pretty flexible and I can run forever. Doing yoga regularly has kept my body flexible and that’s helped me keep playing at a high level for a long time.
“My advice to younger players would be to sleep well, eat the right food and don’t overtrain, while keeping your life in balance is also really important to performance and preventing injuries.”
Staying fit for football
More information on how to stay fit by using the ACC-supported NZF Performance and Prevention programme is available on the website.
Football Ferns fixtures at FIFA Women’s World Cup
20 July v Norway, 1-0 win, Eden Park, Auckland
25 July v Philippines, Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington
30 July v Switzerland, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin