‘Girls can do anything’ - How an inaugural Matilda inspired her family

Monique Blankenstein vividly remembers watching the first ever game of Australian international women’s football 40 years ago. 

She sat amongst friends and family at Seymour Shaw Park in Sydney to see her cousin, Rose van Bruinessen, run out in the Green and Gold.

Blankenstein watched on with pride as her cousin became one the very first Matildas.

“My cousin Rose van Bruinessen was playing in that inaugural game in Sydney,” Blankenstein said.

“I remember what a big occasion it was.

“I’m sure the crowd was mostly family members watching their loved ones play.

“The atmosphere was fantastic, and it was a hard fought match.”

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It was October 7, 1979 when Australia played New Zealand in Sydney.

Of course, they weren’t yet known as the Matildas; that moniker was to come in time for the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in 1995.

The game ended 2-2 and that was only the start of development in the women’s game. 

From there the Westfield Matildas bloomed and, fast-forward to today, the Australia women's national team is competing at a level higher than they have ever been before.

But it all began 40 years ago with players like van Bruinessen who, for Blankenstein, was a mentor growing up.

“I would go and watch her play for her local club with my family... and we would also go to watch Rose and her sister Fran play for NSW,” Blankenstein said.

“Rose was the apple of her Dad’s eye. He was so proud of her, we all were.”

“Australian women’s sport has come a long way since then.”

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From its origins in 1979, the Australia women’s team has flourished, led by the likes of Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord and their teammates who routinely compete on the world stage. 

And, on one day in September 2017, Blankenstein watched on as her cousin took to the field again, almost 40 years since debuting for Australia, but this time surrounded by the current crop of Westfield Matildas stars.

“Rose and I attended the Matildas versus Brazil game in Newcastle a couple of years ago with a lot of the other ex-Matildas,” Blankenstein said.

“It was great to see them honoured on the field before the game.” 

The moment reflected on where women’s football has been, where it is now, and where it’s going in the future.

And Blankenstein says that much like van Bruinessen was a role model for her, the stars of today will inspire young girls around the country to become the stars of tomorrow. 

“Rose and I are still great mates to this day,” Blankenstein said.

“She often flies up to Brisbane to visit.

“She taught me from a young age that girls can do anything – and she was right.”

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