23 - Cortnee Vine: I want to make everyone so proud to be Australian
Cortnee Vine began playing football with her brother when she was five. Back in 1999, having a career as a professional female footballer just wasn’t the norm, but that didn’t stop her from plastering her dreams of World Cup greatness on the back of her bedroom door.
Vine juggled multiple sports growing up. Along with football, athletics was also a favourite, but at 15, she made the choice to fully commit to the round ball, after her then-coach suggested she trial for a spot in her first all-women’s team.
The following decade would be a whirlwind, with Vine being picked up by the Queensland Academy of Sport, before making her A-League Women’s debut for Brisbane Roar at 16 years old. She then went on to play for Newcastle Jets, Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC before finally making her senior national team debut at the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
“I don't think I've sat down and really reflected on the whole process, to be honest. It's just been crazy,” the Shepparton-born forward said.
“Going from Sydney FC to being selected [for the Matildas Asian Cup squad] and then jetting off overseas, that was the first international trip that I'd done since U20s [Young Matildas].
“Going to Dubai with the girls for pre-camp, not knowing if I'm going to make the team and then getting through that process and being selected for the Asian Cup was amazing."
That year's Asian Cup was one to forget for the Matildas, who were knocked out in the quarterfinals by South Korea. Nonetheless, Vine took away some valuable lessons that would shape her into the footballer we see today.
“Obviously, the Asian Cup wasn't the most ideal tournament for us, but there were a lot of learning experiences. For my first tournament, it was a good taste of what international football is all about,” she said.
Settling into a new routine as a jet-setting Australian representative player has been a juggle for the 25-year-old and it's something she is still learning to manage.
“It’s just been crazy. The first year I was part of the team, we had so many international games and I found it really difficult to go from playing internationally to going back home and getting back into normal daily life," Vine shared.
“Camp life is very different. It's all very structured, so I found it difficult going back to my own environment where I had to switch back to normal life. I’m still learning to juggle going in and out of camp. That's just made it all a bit more of a whirlwind because there's not much time to sit and reflect.”
The combination of everything happening so quickly, coupled with Vine’s humble nature meant that there were times when she questioned whether or not she was good enough to be part of the Matildas’ setup.
“With international football, I've always looked at it like, your position is never guaranteed. And I don't think it ever should be. Everyone should be a bit stressed about being selected,” she explained.
“Just because I’d been part of the squad for the last year didn’t really mean much when there was this massive tournament [FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™]. Selection is based on, who the best 23 players are right now, so I never take being selected for granted and I think that way for all selections.”
Vine’s attitude towards World Cup selection was no different, although this would be the first time she’d find out face-to-face, during pre-tournament camp. After she received the good news, Vine was asked if she thought she was going to make the squad. With tears in her eyes, she replied, “No.”
“I think you can tell from the video, it meant the world. I just never thought it would happen,” she said.
“Even though it was one of my goals and it's something you push for, you're never ready to hear that it's coming true. Going to a world cup is seriously one of, if not the only thing, I've ever wanted to do in my career.”
The raw emotion spoke volumes to the amount of relief Vine felt hearing that she had been selected. Finally able to put to bed any doubt she had around whether she was "good enough."
“It was hard for me to believe that I was part of it. That I was one of the best 23 players in Australia,” she shared.
“I always strive to be perfect, and I didn't feel perfect. That's how I would look at it. But I never feel perfect and I think that’s the problem. You can always strive to be good at something, but I don't think anything's ever perfect and that's something I’ve really had to come to terms with.
“I think that could just be an athlete's mindset, that you can always do better. The touch can be better, the run can be better, and I can work harder. There, it's just a never-ending cycle of wanting to improve. It's a really big mental game," Vine continued.
“After I was selected, I was so drained and exhausted. I don’t think I realised how much [emotion] I was holding onto during that selection process. Being selected for this lifelong goal that I'd had on the back of my door since I was 12 and it not only being a World Cup, but a World Cup on home soil, made it just that more surreal."
With four World Cup matches now under her belt, Vine is feeling more confident in herself and her place in the team, but performing at her best for her teammates is still very much a driving factor.
“I really value what my team thinks. I really crave that reassurance, positivity and encouragement on the field,” she said.
“Before the Ireland game, everyone was really getting around each other. I had a few girls come up to me and tell me that they backed me so much and they told me to just 'do what I do' and it’s always so nice to hear.
“I would say from where I started, to where I am now, I'm definitely in a better place in terms of how I feel about my position within the squad.
“How I’ve performed at an international level, makes me feel better about why I'm here and knowing that I deserve to be here. I don't feel like I'm out of place. I just want to be better and better each game."
Vine credits her mum as being her biggest supporter, saying that when she steps onto the pitch, it's her family, her partner and her supporters who are always in the back of her mind.
A fan favourite, Aussie crowds are always excited to witness some 'Vine Time,' and she says this support is something that doesn't go unnoticed.
"The Australian public drive me a lot. I really want to make everyone so proud to be Australian. Also just the [Matildas] girls in general. I feel like it's always really nice when you all have a common goal," she said.
"To be successful at this World Cup would have a big ripple effect for Australian football and that's all I want to see for Australia. To achieve something special for everyone who supported me would just be another thing that I never dreamed of happening."