Former Westfield Matildas midfielder Sally Shipard reflects on her standout career which lifted off since her appearances as a 16-year-old at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
From the ovals of Wagga Wagga to the heights of the Olympic Games, Shipard has been fortunate enough to have created an abundance of special moments throughout her 10-year career.
The daily life of a footballer provided the 33-year-old with an amazing feeling which she will not be forgetting anytime soon.
“The elation that you feel with your teammates day-to-day, having a good laugh on the bus on the way back from the training session or you’re all in an ice bath after an international,” Shipard told Matildas.com.au.
“I think the smaller moments definitely add up but I just remember the natural highs primarily. I think with the natural highs, I really missed that when I first retired and feeling incredibly lost when I did as most humans do.
It was pointed out to me that those natural highs are actually created by yourself and that was a really comfortable thought in that football provided me with such wonderful experiences and such lovely highs.”
One of those countless natural highs arrived at the starting point of her career when she was selected to compete at the Olympic Games as a 16-year-old in 2004.
“I was quite young, I felt like I had a wonderful bunch of older sisters that sort of had my back and playing without any sort of expectation at those Olympic Games was pretty incredible,” she said.
The Riverina-born midfielder was fixated with sport from a young age and it was a certain event which set her heart on the idea of forging a professional football career.
“Football and cricket is what I gravitated towards and football just kind of stole the show and I was so young and surrounded by some really strong footballers in Wagga,” Shipard said.
“At the age of 12, I went to the Sydney Olympics down in Melbourne and watched the Matildas play and from that day onwards that’s all I wanted to do.
The goal was solidified and I had my blinders on and I just really wanted to be an exceptional football player.”
A series of injuries forced Shipard into retirement at the age of 27 in 2014 but that has not stopped one of Australia’s most promising female players from succeeding in her post-football career.
“I’m really happy with the choices that I’ve made since retiring. I am a marriage celebrant over weekends and I started my carpentry apprenticeship about four years ago and then finished that at the start of last year,” she said.
“I’ve most recently turned to furniture making which is fun.”
The ex-Westfield Matilda star shares the joy that so many have for the growing stature of women’s football in the country but having been asked on multiple occasions if she wished she was still playing today, she responds: “I probably wish that my knees weren’t as painful as what they are but I couldn’t be happier for the current crop of female athletes and the Matildas in particular for what their achieving in the stage that they’ve created for themselves.”
Despite taking a step back from the footballing world, she still shares the growing enthusiasm that is set to reach fever pitch when Australia prepares to host the 2023 Women’s FIFA World Cup.
“Hopefully this crazy world of ours settles down and gets to a point where we can embrace what the World Cup will be here in Australia,” Shipard said.
“I’m covered in goosebumps just thinking about it and although I haven’t remained involved in women’s sport in any great way, my ears certainly prick up whenever I hear an update.
“I couldn’t be happier for the direction of women’s sport and I still pinch myself to think of the opportunities that I’ve had.”