Mary Fowler delivered an incredible strike on the hour for a frustrated Matildas team as they finally clicked into gear to overcome the stubborn defensive block of Chinese Taipei at HBF Park on Wednesday night.
The goal was enough to prompt visiting coach Chan Hiu Ming to offer his congratulations as Australia’s player of the match entered the press conference alongside her coach Tony Gustavsson. No goalkeeper would save that shot, said the well-spoken Taiwanese coach, and he was probably right.
Given freedom by her coach to decide which side of the field to attack from in a four-pronged strike force, the superstar, unbelievably still only 20 years old and living the dream of playing in the English WSL and for her successful national team, showed off her range of skills in a devastating display. Her nonchalance in taking a ball out of the air and laying a spinning pass off to a teammate in one move is poetry in motion and she has the uncanny knack of being in the right position to feed off scraps on the edge of the penalty area.
With the striker leaving the press conference early to rejoin the players in a team meeting, Gustavsson was left to reflect on the prodigious talent he has at his disposal. He was almost pleading with the assembled journalists to stop pumping her up. What we saw tonight, a breathtaking goal from distance that arrowed into the top corner, is what we see in training, admitted the articulate and thoughtful Australian coach. Even Sam Kerr told him that Fowler was the best finisher she has ever played with.
But that mantle may have been in jeopardy after a first half of missed chances. Fowler wasn’t the only guilty party, but Gustavsson wanted his players to play free from fear, and he felt they showed they could move around the field with freedom and could bring the unpredictability required to unlock the Chinese Taipei defence.
The player nicknamed ‘Star Girl’ by her teammates took her rock-star status to a new level too this evening, her rumoured relationship with rugby league icon Nathan Cleary confirmed by his presence at the game, and by his face appearing on the big screens once he had been spotted.
A lot of hearts would be broken at the news, but to see a high-profile Matildas player dating a high-profile star from another sporting code could be the crossover that football needs to break through its media ceiling and infiltrate the news feeds of all Australians. One for the PR and marketing gurus to exploit to the maximum.
The final question for Fowler from the jovial reporters in the press conference was about her gloves. We’d seen them every game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup earlier this year, primarily to stop her fidgeting, so what happened? With a wry smile, the Matildas star conceded that she ditched the gloves in favour of a hair tie to keep her fingers busy, and she was somewhat taken aback that someone had noticed. This was the sort of detail that a true superstar at the top of their game is subject to, and it showed the level of interest in everything that she does.
Mary Fowler’s star is shining brightly right now, scoring for her national team, starting in Manchester City’s team ahead of other world class players. The sky is the limit for the super-talented youngster and we hope to see much more as the Matildas vie for a spot in the Olympic Games next year in Paris in a two-legged do-or-die clash with Uzbekistan in February.
There’s definitely something about Mary.