Story by Jeremy Walker
From ‘vibing’ in the Cove as a youngster to playing for his boyhood club, Sky Blues shot-stopper Tom Heward-Belle reflects on his homegrown footballing journey.
With Canadian and Australian background, plus travels in the Asian Champions League, Heward-Belle represents the life of a global footballer.
But the Pymble-born goalkeeper has a strong local football upbringing – devotedly following the Sky Blues in his youth, captaining his school’s First XI and idolising Harry Kewell.
“I was always part of the Cove as a young boy,” said Heward-Belle.
“I pretty much went to every Sydney FC game religiously with my mates and then I joined the Mariners! My first involvement there was in front of the Cove which felt a bit odd.
“Back then it was a great time to be a Sydney supporter though, I just remember rocking up to the city and catching the train in from Pymble with my friends and going to the old Allianz Stadium and just vibing for 90 minutes.”
A true Sky Blue at heart, Heward-Belle has seen some of the best players to grace the Sydney FC jersey.
“Brosquey [Alex Brosque] was obviously a big one and we also had a lot of fun watching Del Piero play, what a player,” the 25-year-old added. “Rhyan Grant as well, you know he’s pretty conducive with what Sydney FC’s all about so he’s a bit of a cult hero around here.
“Clint Bolton too, he was a massive player back then and a pretty influential keeper.”
Watching the legends of Sydney FC growing up, Heward-Belle knows what it means to represent his hometown club and regularly reminds himself of the privilege.
“Whenever you get to put the jersey on and represent Sydney it’s a very special moment,” the goalkeeper said.
“You just can’t take it for granted and it’s something I’ll always aim for and wanted to do as a young kid growing up.
“Don’t take the opportunity lightly because you never know if you can sustain it or when you’re going to get it next time.”
Heward-Belle has been part of three Isuzu UTE A-League Championship-winning squads across fourteen A-League appearances in Sky Blue – playing in the 2021 Finals Series and making an impressive 5 saves against Melbourne City in the Grand Final.
And the young keeper is delighted to continue his development at Sydney FC alongside Socceroos goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne.
“Yeah he’s a very hard worker and obviously he’s always someone that you can look up to and you have to try and better yourself to his standards,” Heward-Belle said.
“I spoke to him when he got back from Qatar and I think he’s very deserving of all the plaudits and celebrations for his heroics at the national team because that’s something he’s worked towards.
“Hopefully we get to see him again have some sort of impact in the upcoming World Cup!”
Similar to the “Yellow Wiggle”, Heward-Belle is no stranger to penalty heroics himself, saving Adelaide United’s Hiroshi Ibusuki’s 88th minute spot-kick in February last season – winning man of the match and gifting Sydney a dramatic 2-1 league victory.
“It was obviously a really special night, my family travelled to Adelaide as well to watch that game so that was special too,” said the keeper.
“It’s something that I’ll never forget but I don’t think I could’ve had any impact on that game without feeling at home and that’s obviously what the club’s all about.
“Whether it’s from the staff to the players, they make you feel like you’re part of it and that’s probably why it was so special for me.”
To make it to the top at Sydney, Heward-Belle has risen from the ranks in the Australian youth setup – representing West Pymble FC, Manly United, Blacktown City and also captaining the Barker College First XI in high school.
The former Australian national team U23’s and U20’s member grew up admiring Real Madrid icon Iker Casillas and his outrageous saving ability – but it was an outfield Socceroo that really caught his eye.
“As a kid I watched the Premier League late at night with my dad, that was a great memory of mine,” Heward-Belle explained. “I loved watching Harry Kewell wear the number 7 jersey playing week-in week-out at Liverpool.
“He had a very special left foot and I remember watching him at the 06’ World Cup. Any time my family had any ill words towards him I stood up for him, I always had his back! I think at one stage I burst out crying cause I couldn’t take any more of my family’s berating!
“I love him to death, I wish I could meet him.”
After developing his trade at the Western Sydney Wanderers and Central Coast Mariners, Heward-Belle joined the Sky Blues in 2017 and became part of a Sydney squad which have won three A-League Championships, three Premierships and one FFA Cup.
With a wealth of experience at a young age, the goalkeeper may look to utilise his footballing expertise after his career ends – potentially as a pundit.
“You never know!” said Heward-Belle.
“When I first started my media degree at Macquarie University I obviously wanted to go into sports journalism and that’s something hopefully one day I might still pursue.
“I’m just over halfway on the degree, I’ve been doing it part-time and I really enjoy university at Macquarie and doing that with friends and being so close to home and doing it part-time helps to cater for being here and training full-time.”
A pupil and player of the beautiful game, Heward-Belle is Sydney FC through and through.
From “vibing” in the Cove as a kid to now protecting the goal in front of them, the keeper is certain to give his all for the Sky Blue cause.