23 - Emily van Egmond: "We want to leave the game in a better place."
A 13-year veteran of the team, Emily van Egmond has played a big part in the evolution of the Matildas. Playing alongside hall-of-fame legends from the time she was a teenager, she knows how much impact this generation can have on the future.
“I was first brought into the Matildas under Tom Sermanni when I was 15. It was off the back of the first-ever W-League season and around the time where Joey Peters and Cheryl Salisbury were retiring,” van Egmond explained of where her national team journey began.
“We had two send-off games, one for Joey and one for Chez, which was honestly awesome because they were such legends of the game. To have been on that journey and to see how far we’ve come has been amazing.
“I was lucky enough to grow up and train in Newcastle with them. They used to scare the hell out of me,” she laughed. “But they also took me under their wing."
Former CommBank Matildas' captain and current PFA Co-Chief Executive, Kate Gill, used to pick a young van Egmond up from school in Newcastle and drive her to Sydney to play, as there were no local competitions.
"Kate didn’t need to do that, but she did and I will forever be grateful to her because she was someone who helped me to have an opportunity," van Egmond said.
“I probably wouldn’t have a career without some of those women, so I’ll always vouch for the past Matildas. They definitely left the game in a much better place and I was fortunate enough to see and benefit from that.”
Daughter of former Socceroo, Gary van Egmond, Emily was always destined to fall in love with the beautiful game. She forged her own path but explained that the guidance of her dad was fundamental to finding herself as both a player and a person.
“He's been everything. He was my coach growing up and I’m so fortunate to have him in my corner, to be able to lean on him and have him shape who I am today," she said of the former Matildas Assistant Coach who she played under from 2015-2019.
“Whenever I’ve had an injury or if I'm in a bit of a slump and not playing my best football, he's the first person I call. He knows me better than anyone else, so he knows exactly how to help me get myself out of it.
“I'm just so lucky to have someone like that within my support network. He's probably the main reason I've been able to have such a long career so far.”
When it comes to what van Egmond believes makes this team special, she says it’s the perfect recipe of talent, personality and culture.
“The unique characters and raw ability we have in this playing group is what makes it so good,” she explained.
“I think it’s something a lot of teams don’t have and I believe that’s our biggest weapon.
“Mentality is definitely a big part of it too, but the biggest factor is the respect and team culture across the change room and how bonded we are.
“We've shared a journey for so many years now. For a lot of us, the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ was our third or fourth World Cup and everyone is at the peak of their careers. We are playing in some of the biggest women's clubs around the world.
After a history-making FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ where the CommBank Matildas achieved Australia's best-ever result and captured the hearts of a nation, van Egmond reflected on how far the women’s game has come on the shoulders of giants and what’s possible for the next generation.
“There have been a host of past Matildas who led the way, to provide for the next generation and I’ve been fortunate enough to have benefited from that,” she reiterated.
“The game has come so far. The tactical understanding, and the technical execution of some of these players are second to none and it's only going to get better from here. This most recent World Cup has proven that in the past, there has been such a big gap and now that gap is starting to close significantly.
“That's what you want, ultimately, to be playing against the best and it's really pleasing to see that gap being bridged, not only by the bigger nations, but also by smaller nations who people weren't expecting it from,” she continued.
“For us, as players, as much as we're enjoying living our dreams and playing on the world stage at home, we are always thinking about wanting to leave the game in a better place, like those before us did. The World Cup at home definitely showcased where it's headed and the potential that it has.”
In terms of what personal legacy van Egmond wants to leave behind, her response was succinct but with a hint of cheekiness only those close to her would experience.
“As a footballer, I want to be remembered for my understanding of the game, being a bit of a playmaker and having a nice final pass,” she said.
“But in terms of how I’d like to be remembered as a person, I’d like people to think of me as someone who is honest, loyal, humble... Pretty funny at times,” she laughed… “If I let you in.”