It is a debate that has raged in silence for nearly half a century. Who should be recognised as the first ever Australian women’s national team?
FFA chief David Gallop has cautioned against a caustic re-opening of wounds in the wake of the Matildas’ limp World Cup exit, which will be the subject of another review.
The black shadow that has accompanied the Matildas for months has been the tenure of Alen Stajcic.
First while he was in the job, where murmurs of discontent
Then when he was dismissed, a process which FFA hopelessly bungled to the detriment of the team and Stajcic himself.
It didn’t dissipate as Ante Milicic took over the reins, even though the former Socceroos assistant was able to win over the players with his brand of coaching and gameplay.
Now Gallop and others worry that the Matildas’ Round of 16 loss to Norway – their first exit before the quarter finals in 16 years – will see another ugly slanging match.
Matildas players and staff have been subjected to vile abuse on social media in the wake of the sacking, including homophobic attacks like the ones highlighted by captain Sam Kerr.
Additionally, Stajcic and his family have been attacked by those who incorrectly believe he was sacked for something nefarious, beyond the toxic culture alleged by FFA.
“There has been much discussion about the decision to change the coach,” Gallop said.
“It goes back to what we said at that the time. We believed change was necessary to give us the best chance to perform at the World Cup. We do not resile from that position.
“But now, with the World Cup campaign over it is the right time to conduct a review.”
There in fact will be two reviews; an independent look at FFA’s handling of the Stajcic sacking, and an internal review of the Matildas performance.
The two issues will bleed together, though it’s still a touchy subject for the Matildas.
On Sunday morning (AEST) after the Norway loss, and for the umpteenth time, a player batted away the notion that Stajcic’s sacking had made a negative impact.
This time it was Alanna Kennedy’s turn.
“It’s got nothing to do with it,” she said dismissively.
One ex-Matilda did dip her toe into the murky waters after seeing Australia exit; Michell Heyman.
The World Cup and Olympics striker retired from international duty last month, while lifting the lid on her battle with anxiety.
Working as a pundit for BeIN Sports this tournament, Heyman lamented the nature of the debate.
“For the Aussie girls it was pretty difficult to hear the news of the sacking but at the same time it was something that needed to be done during that moment to move forward,” she said.
“The girls are getting a lot of stick and so is the new coach because our performance has changed.
“It’s been positive within the camp but outside the camp there’s been a few loud noises and that’s the sad thing about football. What are you going to do?”