Since the FFA Hall of Fame started in 1999, 245 people have had the honour of being inducted, from players to coaches to administrators to anyone that has made a significant contribution to Australian football.
This week, the Matildas pierced the Australian sporting public’s consciousness.
Over 30,000 people at the grounds and a healthy TV audience saw two thrilling team performances that reflected the ‘Australian way’ of playing football: technically adept, uncompromising and dominant.
The development of the Matildas into a team that can be the best in the world has been one of incremental improvement over the past decade, but since the Rio Olympics, the team has taken some giant strides.
I put it down to seven factors.
A genuine superstar
Representative of the quantum leap in the team is the jewel in the crown: Sam Kerr.
Agile, fast, and excellent at reading the game, she is the new face of the game in Australia. A world player of the year in waiting.
Blooding young talent
Kudos to the coaching staff of this team and of teams past in introducing teenagers into the cauldron of qualifying and tournament football, the fruits of which are now being shown.
An unassuming coach who learns from his mistakes
Alen Stajcic is the national coach who is executing the style of football that, as fans, we want to see – and he’s getting results.
From a side without the legs to run out the end of games at the 2015 World Cup to one that rolls over the opposition, the Matildas are well placed for an assault on the World Cup and Olympic titles in the next three years.
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The elements that stood out were patient but not ponderous build-up play, the awareness of space in midfield, dynamic movement off the ball giving options, the distribution to wide players, and the number and quality of opportunities in the front third.
We can only be outside observers, but the team spirit appears phenomenal. The players have experienced the on-field highs and lows as well as the solidarity forged by their pay dispute in 2015-6.
The intensity of the pre-match huddle, as well as the unbridled joy displayed by playing, scoring and winning, suggest a team on the path to success.
Although the ABC feed was cut seconds after the games’ end, it was reported that the Matildas’ interaction with fans at the grounds was a credit to them.
One can imagine the games against China will generate a similar level of enthusiasm in Victoria, while tours next year by the our strongest rivals – the likes of the USA, Japan, England and Germany – would take fan support to new levels.
The Matildas’ exposure may well be on an exponential path: players who become household names; World Cup and Olympic favouritism; a potential Woman’s World Player of the Year, and possibly a home World Cup.
The public embrace of this team and the commercial media’s desire to jump on the bandwagon means that the Matildas are on the cusp of a new era.
The Matildas are setting the standard in Australian football. Playing to their strengths. Playing with passion. Playing with skill.
Socceroos, take note: no siege mentality, no surliness, no nonsense.