Women’s sport weekly wrap: The Matildas have arrived

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    I’ll always remember this week as the week where I really felt like for the first time, the Australian public really embraced the Matildas.

    It has truly been an incredible week for this team – it started last Saturday when Sam Kerr was on the front of the Sydney Morning Herald back-flipping. Despite increased attention for women in sport, we are still not at a point where women’s sport is covered frequently in our mainstream newspapers.

    To have women’s sport featured on the front page signals that something special is going on.

    Last weekend was the first time I had had the opportunity to watch the Matildas play. When I went to Pepper Stadium last Saturday, I joined over 15,000 people to watch the team play. This game was the first occasion that the Matildas had played on home soil in front of a sold-out-crowd.

    Had I not been so overjoyed that that many people had turned out to watch women’s football, I would have been slightly cranky that I didn’t have a seat. But I wasn’t the only one. Friends of mine who arrived an hour before kick-off also couldn’t find a seat. The Stadium was packed. There were no empty seats in the grandstand and the massive crowd sprawled onto the hill. So much for critics who say no one is interested in women’s sport because it is an ‘inferior product’.

    The atmosphere was electric – dads with their daughters, families, men and women brought together by their love of football.

    And what’s not to love? This was the Matildas first game in Australia since their Tournament of Nations triumph last month where Australia not only won the whole tournament, but also defeated the United States for the first time in history.

    Saturday’s game finished with a 2-1 result in favour of the Matildas, making it the second time in a row that this team had beaten Brazil. On Tuesday night in Newcastle, two became three when the Matildas came from behind to defeat Brazil 3-2. Sam Kerr scored two goals on the night and entertained the crowd with another one of her trademark backflips.

    For fans of women’s football, the coaching staff and the Matildas themselves, it must be truly incredible to have watched the rise of this team from underdogs to one of Australia’s most loved sporting teams.

    The Australian public is beginning to get behind the characters in the team like Sam Kerr who is not just famous for her back-flips but also for being one of the most talented football players in the world. Then there’s Ellie Carpenter who was Australia’s youngest athlete at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and Lisa de Vanna, the experienced campaigner who is Australia’s leading goal scorer and who scored a phenomenal long range goal on Saturday in Penrith.

    Post-game in de Vanna admitted to being emotional, because despite playing for the Matildas for 15 years, she had never played in a stadium with so many people cheering for the team.

    In their last two games, they have played in front of over 31,000 people. The crowd in Newcastle of 16,829 was a record for a stand-alone Matildas home game.

    The next step is keeping the momentum going and ensuring that this strong support of our national team translates into support of the upcoming W-League season. The W-League season will begin in the final weekend of October, span for 14 weeks and will include 25 double-headers alongside A-League games.

    I’ll also be keeping an eye out on the next update of the world rankings. The Matildas are currently sitting in sixth place, but I expect them to move back into the top five, perhaps even the top four after beating Brazil three times in succession. This is only the beginning for this team – make sure you’re on board.

    There is absolutely no denying that women’s sport is in the rise at the moment. This year alone we have seen the incredible success of the AFLW, increased awareness and profiling for the Australian Jillaroos, a new Super Netball competition and a nation behind the Matildas.

    I’m hoping that the wave of support for the Matildas translates into support for other women’s sport and one of our next opportunities to watch a national team in action is the Ashes series featuring out Australian Women’s Cricket Team.

    Games will be played at Coffs Harbour, Allan Border Field and North Sydney Oval, so I encourage all of you to get out there and support our Australian Women’s Cricket Team – with talent like Megan Schutt, Ellyse Perry, Alex Blackwell and Elyse Villani featuring, you won’t be disappointed. The Ashes begins on October 22.

    Rugby league
    Last week I introduced all of you to one of the new faces in the Australian Jillaroos – Talesha Quinn. This week I thought I would introduce you to another.

    Jessica Sergis will make her Jillaroos debut tomorrow against the Papua New Guinea Orchids. it is pretty incredible for a young woman that has played less than 20 rugby league games.

    Jess went to her first training session with the Cronulla Sharks earlier this year with no idea what to expect. She remembers feeling intimidated – particularly about meeting pioneers in the game like Ruan Sims.

    She thought she would be excluded and that she wasn’t good enough to play with these women. But then, Jess noticed that Ruan Sims was wearing fake eyelashes just like hers and her mind was at ease. Her mind was even more at ease when the squad welcomed her instantly as one of their own.

    Over the past year, Jess has developed into one of the most talented Australian rugby league prospects. She was one of the Sharks best players this year and made her New South Wales debut in the Interstate Challenge, scoring three tries.

    Along the way she has been the beneficiary of plenty of support and mentoring from women in the team like Ruan Sims.

    While Jess may be in awe of the women she plays with, the feeling of respect is certainly mutual.

    Ruan talks fondly about Jess, explaining that she took Jess aside for some one-on-one tackling training very early on. While Jess didn’t have the correct technique initially, Ruan saw ability, a willingness to listen and a hunger to learn. In that moment, Ruan knew she had a future talent on her hands.

    Keep an eye on the Jillaroos tomorrow to watch this talent unleash.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (46)

    • September 22nd 2017 @ 5:46am
      Waz said | September 22nd 2017 @ 5:46am | ! Report

      A great little read again Mary, well done.

      I’d only say this though – the Matildas arrived some time ago, only no one outside of our code noticed it.

      And the W-League enters its tenth year as a professional league this season but how many outside of football would know that? Ribbons signed for a new Australian club yesterday, but how many media outlets will report on that? So there’s still a long, long way to go, but yes – last week was a great week for football ?

      • Columnist

        September 22nd 2017 @ 8:48am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | September 22nd 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        Hi Waz

        Thanks a lot. 🙂

        I think that’s the point I was trying to make. The Matildas have been exceptional for some time now, but this is the first time I think I can feel the rest of the country getting behind them and hearing about it.

        I’m hoping that this momentum continues into the W-League. Interesting you mentioned signing news – there’s been plenty of movement already which I’ve been keeping an eye on (very happy Michelle Heyman is staying with Canberra United).

      • Roar Guru

        September 22nd 2017 @ 10:12am
        Mango Jack said | September 22nd 2017 @ 10:12am | ! Report

        I have to admit to never paying much attention to the Matildas until this week. I may have watched a few minutes here and there, but never close to being glued to the box as I was on Tue night. It was sport at its best, a gripping contest played with skill and passion. I’ve now added them to my “compulsory sport viewing” list.

    • September 22nd 2017 @ 9:33am
      Nemesis said | September 22nd 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

      Thanks for this report, Mary.

      It’s been great to see new people open their eyes to what football fans have been observing for years & wondering why the media doesn’t pay attention.

      We now have proof that the cream of AUS women’s football are world class athletes in their field. We know this, not because media cheerleaders for the sport spin a myth about “world class”.

      We know this because we watch our Women’s National Team competing against the best in the world in their sport & they’re getting results.

      But, this would not be possible if the National Team were just artificially constructed with mercenary athletes from other sports, who just want the limelight for a few week each year.

      These women have succeeded not because of the recognition they receive in the media & from corporate Australia. They’ve succeeded despite the lack of recognition over the years.

      But, let’s be clear. This Women’s National Team would never be possible without the huge grassroots participation & proper organised competitions for girls.

      Too many sports look at the top of the pyramid to measure success.

      I do not. I look at the bottom of the pyramid. This is where the foundations are built to sustain a sport into the future.

      That’s why we in football go on about “participation levels” being the key to sport success. Without strong participation from youth to teenage to adolescent to adult, any sport will eventually collapse.

      • September 22nd 2017 @ 10:01am
        Casper said | September 22nd 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

        Well done to the Matilda’s but I think you have to factor in the standard of women’s soccer before claiming them as world class. After all, this is a team that got beaten 7-0 by an u15 boys team from some regional town.

        Sam Kerr looks like a real star, and I’m sure her background plays a large part in that.

        • September 22nd 2017 @ 10:14am
          Nemesis said | September 22nd 2017 @ 10:14am | ! Report

          “After all, this is a team that got beaten 7-0 by an u15 boys team from some regional town.”

          And people wonder why I’ve got no time for Football Illiterates who come to these discussions.
          They are ignorant.
          They don’t do basic research.
          They don’t understand sport.

          They add absolutely nothing.

          PS: Sam Kerr has only ever played football competitively since age 11. No other sport. Just football. That’s why she’s a great footballer.

          • September 22nd 2017 @ 10:24am
            Lionheart said | September 22nd 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

            it’s a bait Nemesis
            best ignored

            • September 22nd 2017 @ 10:34am
              Nemesis said | September 22nd 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

              Fair point, Lionheart.

              I just wonder what it is about football that drives people to this type of behaviour.

              These people are so depressed with their lives they have nothing they enjoy discussing so they spend every day being negative about life. Such people need professional help to make them smile again, before it’s too late.

              • September 22nd 2017 @ 10:44am
                Lionheart said | September 22nd 2017 @ 10:44am | ! Report

                yes, I’d agree with that

            • September 22nd 2017 @ 10:48am
              Casper said | September 22nd 2017 @ 10:48am | ! Report

              Lionheart – it’s not a bait. Nemesis has tried to pump up their tyres while at the same time dumping on other sports.

              I have just countered his post. He has even resorted to the desperate measure of distorting the age at which Sam Kerr started playing the game.

              • September 22nd 2017 @ 11:31am
                Sydneysider said | September 22nd 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

                “Lionheart – it’s not a bait. Nemesis has tried to pump up their tyres while at the same time dumping on other sports.”

                Finally understanding what it’s like when the shoe is on the other foot Casper.

                I’m looking forward to seeing the Australian women’s rugby league team in action too.

              • September 22nd 2017 @ 12:00pm
                Waz said | September 22nd 2017 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

                This is a thread for football supporters Casper. Deal with it. It happens on all the other threads for other codes as well.

              • September 22nd 2017 @ 12:43pm
                Casper said | September 22nd 2017 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

                Waz, it doesn’t worry me at all. He can say what he likes, and I’ll say what I like. Only one of us will get abusuve though.

              • September 22nd 2017 @ 1:23pm
                punter said | September 22nd 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

                Casper, at least he is on the football tab, a game he enjoys, you on the other hand…..

              • September 22nd 2017 @ 1:32pm
                Casper said | September 22nd 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

                I’m just on the main tab. I don’t really care where it takes me after clicking on the story.

                What happened to you Punter. You used to be your own man, but now you are just a sycophant to our Eastern European friend.

              • September 22nd 2017 @ 2:20pm
                punter said | September 22nd 2017 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

                Thought you said you don’t get abusive Casper????

                I read & re-read Nemesis comment (yes he does deride other sports, but he does it on the football tab was all I said). However, in his comment above he doesn’t mention others sports yet this provoked your comments.

                Do you follow sports, Tai Bowie won the female 100 metres at the World championship, would you call her world class, her time would struggle to win an inter club male race. What was your point?

              • September 22nd 2017 @ 3:09pm
                Casper said | September 22nd 2017 @ 3:09pm | ! Report

                Punter – he doesn’t mention other sports by name, but we know that the AFLW really bugs him, which is great.

                Bowie is world class. the Matilda’s lost 7-0 to u15 boys. I wouldn’t think an u15 boy from Newcastle would beat Bowie in a race.

              • September 22nd 2017 @ 6:14pm
                punter said | September 22nd 2017 @ 6:14pm | ! Report

                Lighten up Casper!!! Why would AFLW annoy anyone, it’s massive in Melbourne during the off season of the AFL. Everyone a winner.

                This might help.
                https://www.theguardian.com/football/ng-interactive/2017/sep/21/david-squires-on-australias-best-national-sports-team-the-matildas

          • September 22nd 2017 @ 3:02pm
            The Auteur said | September 22nd 2017 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

            An u15 boys AFL team could beat an AFLW team.

            AFLW is far from world class, even though it’s only played in one half of one country. Poor standards.

            • September 22nd 2017 @ 3:58pm
              Casper said | September 22nd 2017 @ 3:58pm | ! Report

              I don’t have an issue with the girls losing to an u15 boys team, it’s the score line that is jarring. What’s the equivalent of 7-0 in other sports?

              • September 22nd 2017 @ 4:07pm
                Nemesis said | September 22nd 2017 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

                It was a practice match.
                It was not even being played under normal match conditions.
                The players were instructed to maintain a formation that they’ll never use in a match.

                Why do people who are not interested in our sport continually hijack discussions?

              • September 22nd 2017 @ 4:33pm
                Casper said | September 22nd 2017 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

                Now all of a sudden you’ve got detailed analysis on the match.

                You don’t like it when someone makes you accountable for your hogwash.

              • September 22nd 2017 @ 4:35pm
                punter said | September 22nd 2017 @ 4:35pm | ! Report

                Brazil lost 7-1 to Germany in semis of WC in 2014. Germany just took over from Brazil as no 1 in world this month.

                Casper, not even sure of your point.

    • September 22nd 2017 @ 9:33am
      Lionheart said | September 22nd 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

      Nice article Mary. I’ve been following the Matildas for a few years now and am really enjoying their rapid improvement of late. It seems ages ago that we struggled against NZ in those pre-Olympic warmups last year. I’m with you – get on board and watch this space.
      Thanks also for the heads up on the Jillaroos – they’re a fabulous team, fit and very athletic.
      Not sure if you’ve heard much about our cyclists at the World Road Championships. We were allocated 7 spots for our female road team but Cycling Australia only selected five riders. Crazy, for a road race, but under pressure they selected two more at the last minute. The race is on this weekend I believe, and I hope one of them gets on the podium; they’re a good chance. Australia’s Katrin Garfoot won Bronze in the time trial.

    • September 22nd 2017 @ 10:06am
      Midfielder said | September 22nd 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      Mary as always a joy to read.

      I would like to add to what other posters have said its people outside Football who are noticing them today… also within the Football family they are moving north as well.

      The journey of this squad over the next few years hopefully will result in a recognition of women’s sport and equally their achievements.

      Climbing into the top five sides in the world will be an achievement of mega size.

      If they can win the world cup the achievement it would would be mega size to the power.

      I think most people today understand being first or anywhere in the top ten in a FIFA world is an achievement.

      Will be interesting to see how they sell their next matches against China.

      • September 22nd 2017 @ 11:32am
        Sydneysider said | September 22nd 2017 @ 11:32am | ! Report

        True Middy, the Matildas were the first national team to win the Asian Continental title back in 2010.

        It’s only now that they are starting to get more traction because they are a top 5 nation and have knocked off world champions in the current year as well as football powerhouse Brazil.

    • September 22nd 2017 @ 11:12am
      AGO74 said | September 22nd 2017 @ 11:12am | ! Report

      There is something very honest, raw and likeable about the Matilda’s that people like and respect. I think this is an outcome of clearly that this team is not in it for the money but for the absolute love and joy of it and desire to do their absolute best as individuals and as a team. I don’t doubt that other teams like the Socceroos (who I also passionately follow) or professional teams in other codes like the nrl afl a-league etc have also have these qualities but the money – and the amount of money that male equivalents receive – fundamentally changes things in the way in which those teams operate within themselves, teammates and also the general public.

      • Columnist

        September 22nd 2017 @ 11:22am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | September 22nd 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report

        It’s something I tend to see with women’s teams generally! I feel like the Matildas, Southern Stars and Jillaroos are all very similar in that regard. Also the Australian Diamonds.

        • Roar Guru

          September 22nd 2017 @ 12:42pm
          Rick Disnick said | September 22nd 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

          Or is it more the perception, from the public, of it being an absolute love of the game — due to a lack of money — than actual reality for our girls?

          If the Matildas played exactly the same way and with the same success, but paid millions of dollars, I bet both of your comments would be slightly different based on such perception.

          I’d suggest some of those girls may not even like football that much, rather the thrill of competition.

          I love anything competitive … it’s in my DNA and I’d say many of the Matildas are the same.

          • September 22nd 2017 @ 1:21pm
            punter said | September 22nd 2017 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

            A-League is competitive, you should try watching it occassionly.

            • Roar Guru

              September 22nd 2017 @ 2:39pm
              Rick Disnick said | September 22nd 2017 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

              Only x-amount of time in any given day.

              • September 22nd 2017 @ 4:42pm
                punter said | September 22nd 2017 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

                Try you may like it!!!

                Let me assist Man City 1st, Man U 2nd & Chelsea 3rd & spurs 4th. there you go no need to watch PL.

          • September 22nd 2017 @ 8:44pm
            The Auteur said | September 22nd 2017 @ 8:44pm | ! Report

            This is honestly one of the stupidest things ever posted this year.

            Not surprising it’s coming from you.

        • September 22nd 2017 @ 2:31pm
          punter said | September 22nd 2017 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

          Have to agree with you team sports, outside of the Olympics are getting much more media attention.
          Always been a fan of the Opals & Hockeyroos, especially in Olympic time, love the Rugby Seven’s team too. Love the Matilda’s but i think you also have to like the sport. I can’t stand netball, so had to look up who the Diamonds were, but no doubt the standing of netball as a very prominent female sport in this country.

    • September 22nd 2017 @ 11:26am
      Nemesis said | September 22nd 2017 @ 11:26am | ! Report

      This article by Lisa De Vanna gives an insight into the commitment, focus, hard work that has created the individuals who are driving the success of our Aussie National Women’s Team.

      It’s not happened by luck.
      It’s not happened because the players decided “I’ll start playing football now that there’s money involved.”
      They’ve been playing when women’s football was earning nothing. They didn’t move to other sports. They kept focused on the sport they loved.

      From Dole Queue To A Dream by Lisa De Vanna
      https://www.playersvoice.com.au/lisa-de-vanna-from-dole-queue-to-a-dream/

      • September 22nd 2017 @ 11:34am
        Sydneysider said | September 22nd 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

        Nemesis, this is the same for women who have played basketball (WNBL), netball before it become professional (ANZ Championship) and also the women’s cricketers before there was the women’s big bash.

        It’s good to see, especially when you can also represent your country and also play club based competitions.

      • September 22nd 2017 @ 11:38am
        Lionheart said | September 22nd 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

        thanks Nemesis.
        Greatly admire Lisa, hard and tough. Lost a bit of respect during the pay dispute a couple of years ago, but she’s regained that over and over after I realised just how dedicated she is.

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