If anyone ever deserved to end their footballing career on a glorious high, it is 57-times capped Westfield Matilda Caitlin Munoz.
Munoz called time on a career spanning two decades in September and appropriately, her last ever touch of the ball was to score a 118th-minute winner for Belconnen United in the NPL ACTW Grand Final.
The former Australia international – part of the history-making Westfield Matildas side at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ – has not always had the footballing gods on her side.
Munoz has undergone five knee reconstructions throughout her career.
Last year, she was not retained by Canberra United, the club she joined as a foundation player and led to two Westfield W-League Championships.
But the versatile midfielder, a self-described ‘sucker for punishment’, never wilted under any of the challenges she faced.
It made last month’s Grand Final all the sweeter, and a fitting way to bow out.
“I had been thinking about [retiring], but it didn’t happen until a few minutes after the game. There’s no better way to finish up,” Munoz told matildas.com.au.
“Nothing’s really different. I think it won’t sink in until the new season starts up, and I might be a little bit sad, but I won’t know until it happens.
“I’m just enjoying eating chocolate on the couch at the moment.”
Munoz has certainly earned the right to put her feet up and enjoy her post-football career.
The 36-year-old contributed a lot to the women’s game in Australia and the Westfield Matildas during her long senior career.
“You look at the players who came before us who had it a whole lot tougher. I remember stories about the players having to pay for their trips – it made me realise how lucky I was,” she said.
“That sticks with me, and it’s great now that the girls are able to be fully professional athletes. That’s what everyone dreams for. I wish I was 10 years younger because that might have been me.”
“It’s good feeling knowing that we’ve contributed to the bigger picture and we’ve had a hand in helping the game where it is at the moment. And it’s just going to keep growing because the Matildas are just killing it across the world.”
While she achieved a lot throughout her career, the undoubted highlight for Munoz came at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China.
The Westfield Matildas not only managed their first win at the tournament but also advanced to the knockout stage for the very first time.
“It’s a dream for any player to go to a World Cup. Even now, just remembering the things we did away at that World Cup, we were the first senior team to win a game, just being a part of that group,” Munoz recalled.
“That’s when the Matildas were just starting to take off.
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“You look back at photos and it brings back all the memories. That was a special time for me.”
Reflecting on her resilience to keep coming back from all her serious knee injuries, Munoz said: “In a way it got easier.
“You knew what to expect in terms of the surgery, the pain and the rehab.
“You were a little bit ahead of the game and could slow yourself down and know what to expect next and avoid going too fast, like I did with my first one.
“It shows how tough mentally and physically we all are. I’m a sucker for punishment because I didn’t want to give up and still thought I could play the game.”