The day the Westfield Matildas finally arrived

The first time I learned Australia had a women’s national team was back in 2005. 

Football Federation Australia had been recently formed, Australia had moved into the Asian Football Confederation and Tom Sermanni had just been re-appointed the head coach of the Westfield Matildas.

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That year Sermanni made a trip to Perth and a mentor made the introductions to a smiling, moustached gentleman with a thick Scottish brogue, even though it had been over 20 years since he left his birthplace. 

Following that meeting there was a desire to learn more about the team he was talking about – the Matildas. 

When I first started covering the team in 2005, every time I was asked about them, there was an explanation ready – the Matildas are the Australian women’s national football team. 

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Even when they reached the quarter finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2007, the explanation was required. 

Even after  becoming the first Australian team to win the Asian Cup in 2010, the explanation was required.

Even when they defeated Brazil at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 and became the first Australian team to win a knockout match at a FIFA World Cup, the explanation was required. 

Even after they played their hearts out only to lose agonisingly in a penalty shootout at the Rio 2016 Olympics Games, the explanation was required.

Simon Brazil celebrate
Kyah Simon celebrates at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup (Photo: Getty Images)

Then on 16 September 2017, on a warm Saturday afternoon in Penrith, it all changed. 

As Advance Australia Fair rang out with over 15,000 supporters in attendance, it felt like the Westfield Matildas had finally arrived – like women's football in Australia had finally arrived."

While for many it may have felt like the Westfield Matildas were an overnight success, they were actually a decades long story of progress.   

Many of the over 200 women to don that cap were present on the day including Julie Dolan, Julie Murray, Moya Dodd, Renaye Iserif, Kate Gill and Dianne Alagich.  They had helped build the Westfield Matildas of the past and in front of them were the next generation taking the Westfield Matildas to the next level. 

It is a generation that has produced three AFC Women's Players of the Year (Katrina Gorry, Caitlin Foord and Sam Kerr), that has world class players across the park now playing for the biggest clubs, that has reached heights in the FIFA rankings that no Australian team has achieved, and excited and delighted children and adults alike with their football skills and embrace of fans.  

AUSvBRA celebrate
Westfield Matildas celebrate in Penrith (Photo: Joseph Mayers Photography)

September 16 was a special day for many reasons; the volley from Lisa De Vanna, the Sam Kerr header, the families and friends who were able to watch on home soil, the shear excitement and joy from the crowd as they too embraced a team that would become beloved. 

Heading into work two days later, a work colleague asked in an elevator if I had seen the Matildas match on the weekend. 

Finally, there was no explanation required.