home Football The top five moments in Australian women’s football this year

The top five moments in Australian women’s football this year

With the 2023 World Cup on the horizon, Sienna Nobile takes a moment to reflect on her top five moments in Australian women’s football. 

The A-League Women’s season is right around the corner, and not long after its end, Australia will be graced by hundreds of international female footballers. The Women’s World Cup 2023 will kick off in Australia on the 30th of July and it’s all the Australian football world is talking about.

FIFA has been in discussions to more-than-double the 2023 prize money to $100 million and, although it’s still far off the men’s prize, this should be celebrated as a win in women’s sport internationally and in Australia. 

So, here are the top 5 moments in Australian Women’s Football in the past year.

5. Football Australia’s Legacy ‘23 Plan

What happened?

Football Australia (FA) announced a strategic plan with the intention of harnessing “the growth of women’s football” in Australia and will deliver benefits for “Australia’s largest community sport beyond the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023”.

Why is it important?

With Australia co-hosting the 2023 World Cup, grassroots football clubs can expect a high intake of players, which is notable for growing the sport. To accommodate, Legacy ‘23 proposed 20 new Development Officers to support 2,000+ clubs nationally, to improve the quality of clubs for young girls that will make them comfortable in their sporting environment. Football is the most inclusive and diverse representative sport in Australia, representing a myriad of cultures, ages, religions and beliefs. The FA’s 2021 National Participation Report revealed that 1,421,804 Australians play football, a number that has been climbing every year, and with greater numbers comes the responsibility for the proper facilities. 

4. Football Australia scraps the W-League

What happened?

In the 2021-22 season, Football Australia scrapped the idea of the W-League (Women’s League), Y-League (Youth League) and A-League (Men’s League), combining them all under the one umbrella term of ‘A-League’. Individually they are now known as the A League Women’s, A-League Youth and A-League Men’s.

Why is this important?

Right down to grassroots leagues, the letters of the alphabet are used to categorise – ‘A’ being the top through to ‘D’ as the lowest rank. Having the men’s league titled the ‘A-League’ in comparison to the women’s and youth leagues suggested that the men were the best, that playing in the men’s was ‘top tier’. Getting rid of such terminology denotes inclusivity, promotes gender equality and minimises potential discrimination in the sport. 

3. Sam Kerr as the face of FIFA23

What happened?

Sam Kerr appears alongside Kylian Mbappé on the global cover of the EA Sports video game FIFA 2023.

Why is this important?

If you were growing up in grassroots football clubs, players on the boys’ teams were always talking about FIFA – how addicted they were, whose house they were going to play at after training, and most of all, who would be the new face. We girls would just screw up our noses… to us, it was a game that boys played, and there wasn’t someone like us on the cover. But now there is. Steph Catley being the face on Australia’s release of FIFA16 was a big step. This year, Sam Kerr has taken a leap. Her presence on the cover crushes the gender stereotypes experienced by many. Her face says: football is not a man’s sport, it’s everybody’s sport. 

2. Matildas bring in the largest TV audience of women’s team sport in Australian history

What happened?

1,468,000 people watched Australia’s Matildas battle it out in round two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – a record-breaking number that made them the most-watched women’s sporting team in Australian television history.

Why is this important?

‘Who would want to watch women play sport?’ – I’ve heard that question thrown around a few times in casual conversation, in the football clubs I played for and in the media. It always seems to be the go-to comment where women’s sport is concerned. The answer to this question is in the ratings. If comparing viewership, the Olyroos’ defeat against Spain in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics only brought in 784,680 Aussie viewers. This was triumphed by the Matildas by over half a million people. These statistics completely stomp the idea that people don’t want to watch women’s sport, when really, the Matildas are the most loved Australian soccer team (sorry Socceroos and Olyroos). Moments like this are an inspiration to all women in the football world, from professional A-League right down to grassroots, and have contributed to Australia and New Zealand’s successful bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup

1. Sam Kerr breaks Tim Cahill’s status as Australia’s all-time leading goal scorer

What happened?

In the recent women’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup, Sam Kerr broke the record for Australia’s all-time leading goal scorer (both men’s and women’s) in the group stage against Indonesia, hitting the back of the net four times. 

Why is this important?

Sam Kerr is so good that she makes an appearance on this list twice! All those little girls who were watching in their yellow and gold jerseys, their hands pressed against the TV screen, faces painted like the Aussie landscape—this milestone was for them. The recognition of achievement in women’s international football is one of the many reasons young players are drawn in. Seeing a player who looks like them and plays like them score the most goals between the women’s and men’s teams is nothing short of a confidence boost. This tells them, ‘Hey, girls can do that too!’. 

Bonus: Barcelona Femeni break women’s record attendance

What happened?

We can’t talk about the world cup without an honourable mention to the smashing headliner of the Barcelona Femeni’s attendance.

Why is this important?

Advertising for the match was everywhere. Billboards, the news, the papers, social media . . . everyone knew about the game, and if you didn’t, that would come as a big surprise. Match tickets were also made accessible, priced between 9 and 15 euros. 20 years ago, an attendance of 90,000 fans for a women’s football game would have been laughed about. Because as I said before, who wants to watch women play? Now, the answer is everybody. 

All in all, the last 12 months of football for women—both in Australia and around the world—has been progressive, record-breaking and incredible to watch. From the elation that was the Tokyo Olympics to the thrill that was the Asian Cup, the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 will be one of the best yet. 

The Matilda’s are set to take centre stage on home soil. The Women’s A-League 2022-23 season is ramping up to be possibly the biggest. Game-changing signings and the introduction of Western United as the 11th team are contributing to the growth of women’s football in our country. Each year we take another step towards where we want to be. 

And where is that exactly?

Ahead of the game. 

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