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Opinion

Is Sam Kerr the greatest footballer Australia has ever seen?

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Expert
10th May, 2021
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On Sunday, Chelsea claimed their fourth Women’s Super League title and firmly established themselves as the most successful team in England.

Along with two runner-up finishes in 2014 and 2016, the four championship years of 2015, 2017-18, 2019-20 and 2020-21 clearly make the Blues the dominant force in the English league. They are stacked with stars and arguably the best in the world right now.

Australia’s Sam Kerr scored one of Chelsea’s goals in the 5-0 drubbing of Reading in the final match of the season. It was her 21st goal in a campaign that lasted just 22 games. The title came down to the final day, with Chelsea requiring all three points to ensure they remained ahead of the eventual runner-up Manchester City.

The champions of England now turn their thoughts to the UEFA Women’s Champions League final against Barcelona on May 17. A win would cap off a stunning year and another successful Kerr strike would further enunciate her rare skill, professionalism and genius.

Kerr is potentially the best Australian footballer we have ever seen.

Sam Kerr celebrates scoring a goal.

(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Golden Boot awards on three continents say a lot about the 27-year-old’s talent, with the country, league or climate utterly irrelevant when it comes to her ability to find the back of the net more consistently that any Australian footballer over an extended period of time.

Sadly, I mentioned her most recent success and my intention to write about it to a colleague on Monday, whose reply has subsequently seen me delete him as a contact and lessened my opinion of him.

“Pfffft,” he said.

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“Women’s football, who cares?”

Such archaic and neanderthal views around women playing the game are clearly still evident and probably destined to be so for some time to come. Yet it was sad to hear it from someone who claims to be a fan and supporter of not only the Australian game as a whole, but also the Matildas.

Most tragic of all was the simple fact that when quizzed, the individual in question was happy to admit they had not watched any of the Super League matches, very few highlights, nor the actual match where Kerr had played a pivotal role in securing the title for the Londoners.

It appears that many of those insistent on criticising the depth and quality of the women’s game are doing so without first-hand knowledge of it and I’m not sure what Kerr, Caitlin Foord, Hayley Raso and Ellie Carpenter have to do in order to alter perception and bring them along for the ride.

Sam Kerr

(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

At the core of such a reluctance to engage with and value women’s football are questions around its depth, quality and ultimate commercial value. Each can be countered quite simply.

The issue of depth is being organically dealt with as exponential growth continues to provide absurdly brisk advances in the quality of the world’s biggest leagues.

The English Women’s Super League has morphed into a powerhouse in the blink of an eye, with Australia’s best players engaged to participate in the highest quality of football they have ever seen.

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Regarding questions of quality, the doubters only need to actually view the content and realise that what Sam Kerr produces on a weekly basis is just a snapshot of the talent and skill on display.

The 2019 World Cup in France showed quite clearly that the commercial success of women’s football is real, tangible and something on which Australia and New Zealand should be looking to capitalise on when this festival of football arrives on our shores in 2023.

An argument could well be mounted that Kerr is the greatest Australian football of all time, something that at the age of 27 would be quite astonishing to achieve.

Sadly, many will swipe such a thought from their mind instantly, based mostly on the fact that Kerr is a woman and playing in a version of the game they see as being inferior to male competition.

For them, Tim Cahill’s 50 goals in 108 appearances for the Socceroos and the statistical records of many other male players places them above what Kerr has achieved thanks to the consistency and quality of the opponents faced.

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But for how long can such a view remain valid? As the women’s game continues to grow in size, depth and quality, when will Kerr’s 52 goals in 49 matches for Perth Glory, 35 goals in 43 starts for the Chicago Red Stars and her 22 successful strikes in 26 matches for Chelsea be granted the same or superior weight?

It is time to acknowledge the fact that Sam Kerr might well be the greatest Australian player we have ever seen. We should never qualify her achievements due to gender and simply view her as the most wonderful footballer we have.

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