2017 was the rise of the Westfield Matildas and the rise of Sam Kerr. And 2017 is the year that both player and team burst into the mainstream, capturing hearts and dazzling fans.
That same year, Kerr was named the AFC Women's Player of the Year, joining Kate Gil, Katrina Gorry and Caitlin Foord as the Australian winners of the prestigious continental honour.
There was little Sam Kerr did not achieve in 2017. Whether it was in the purple of Perth Glory, a Sky Blue FC jersey in the National Women’s Soccer League, or the green and gold of the Westfield Matildas, Kerr made her mark in such a way that she simply could not be ignored.
The 2016-17 Westfield W-League season saw Kerr score 10 goals, including goal of the year, while guiding Perth to a grand final appearance. Her performances earned her a first Julie Dolan medal for best player of the year. She was also crowned the PFA’s Women’s Footballer of the Year as voted by her peers.
Although 2017 was an ‘off’ year for international football with no major tournament taking place for Australia, Kerr and the Westfield Matildas still took part in multiple competitions and friendly matches. A run of seven straight wins to end the year saw Kerr score in six consecutive games.
This golden run included a clean sweep at the Tournament of Nations, where Kerr scored a hat trick against Japan and one of the six goals that were put past Brazil.
Friendlies on home soil meant Aussie fans were able to enjoy and appreciate Kerr’s exploits in the flesh. Bumper crowds in Penrith, Newcastle, Melbourne and Geelong were all treated to at least one Kerr goal and some were even lucky enough to see the now iconic backflip celebration.
But it wasn’t just in Australian contexts that Kerr was shining. She scored 17 goals in 22 games for Sky Blue FC, setting records left, right, and centre.
She claimed the Golden Boot, recorded the highest tally of goals for an NWSL season, became the outright leading scorer in the competition’s history, and became just the second foreigner to claim the league MVP award.
Her four goals in a single game against Seattle Reign set a record and helped Sky Blue record a 5-4 win after they trailed 3-0 at one stage.
With a remarkable 39 goals in 44 matches for clubs and country it was little wonder Kerr claimed the AFC Women’s Player of the Year award. She became the fourth Australian to receive the honour, following Kate Gill in 2010, Katrina Gorry in 2014, and Caitlin Foord in 2016.