The Matildas are the toast of Australian sport at the moment, with the side’s meteoric rise up the official FIFA rankings to number four. Combine that with a side full of talent and personality, and it’s a recipe for continual success as the next generation has a strong standard to look up to.
Flashback to 2004 and the Women’s National Soccer League, along with the National Soccer League have been discontinued. The A-league is reborn in 2005 however, the women’s game will spend the next four years without a professional competition in Australia.
Despite the turmoil, the Matildas continue to not only qualify for major tournaments but consistently perform throughout them. Runners up in 2006 during their first AFC Asian Cup campaign and a quarters finals berth in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup lead to the re-establishment of the professional game in the form of the W-League in 2008.
The development of the women’s game continues to reap rewards on the national stage, as just two years later the Matildas are crowned champions of Asia, defeating North Korea on penalties after scores finished 1 – 1. The Matildas goal scored by none other than a 16-year-old Samantha Kerr.
The ‘Tillies went on to the quarter finals again in both the 2011 and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and took runners up in the 2014 Asian Cup. Again, the Matildas advanced as far as the quarter finals in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. All this form built into what was an extraordinary 2017 which saw the team compete in the Tournament of Nations where they defeated USA, Brazil and Japan to claim the championship.
The Matildas’ consistency and professionalism on the international stage has the domestic game thriving, and the W-League building to what is becoming one of the best Women’s leagues in the world. Off the field, women’s representation on the FFA congress will be the last piece of the puzzle to ensure the games continued growth on our shores.
The Matildas have also made individual efforts and contributions to the W-league. Players like Samantha Kerr, who is arguably one of the best players in the world, recently plied her trade with Perth Glory. Kerr has grown from a name associated with football, to a household Australian name, to a global icon for women’s sport, and has played an instrumental part in the success of the Matildas.
Equally matching her on-field form are the accolades that continue to roll in. Kerr received the 2017 Golden Boot and Most Valuable Player award for the National Women’s Soccer League (USA) along with being voted in the league’s best XI. Closer to home, she received the Asian Women’s Footballer of the year award, the ABC sports personality of the Year and the Young Australian of the Year award. These are just a few of the extensive list of achievements held by the 24-year-old.
The star striker will be key for the Matildas at next year’s World Cup in France. The squad has reached the quarter finals stage in the last three tournaments and will look to their experience to overcome this obstacle. Captains Lisa De Vanna and Claire Polkinghorne, who together share 228 international caps, are set to guide The Matildas through the next historic chapter of football and stake their genuine claim as the best women’s team in the world.
The consistent success of the team has set up an incredibly bright future for the women’s game. Australia will look to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and as the A-league plans expansion, so too will the W-league. Thus, providing more opportunity to players, coaches and administrative staff around the country to develop the next generation of women in football.
By Tom Beverley