This weekend will see the FA Women’s Super League commence its 2020/21 season and in the thick of the action will be eleven current and former Westfield Matildas and Westfield Young Matildas.
It has been dubbed the Aussie invasion of the English League as what started as a trickle in recent months became a flood. So common were the Aussie signings that Arsenal Women’s acknowledged the influx by becoming "Ausenal Women’s" for a brief period.
For Westfield Matildas vice-captain Steph Catley, the move to England is geared towards continual development, not only herself as a player, but also for the benefit of the national team.
“I think it's going to take a national team to another level that we're all in professional environments playing a lot of games,” said Catley.
“That's been the most positive thing out of this is saying that just about every single one of our national team players is now over [in Europe].
I think for me, personally, it's just a chance for me to get out of my comfort zone and be surrounded by incredible players that I can learn from and hopefully, get some chemistry on the field and play some really good football."
“I'm just hoping that I can actually learn enough here and play a different style of football that my game goes to another level.”
At only 26, Catley has already spent six years living overseas as a professional footballer. In that time she has played for some big clubs and alongside some big players in the American National Women’s Soccer League.
For the defender, the switch to Europe and the WSL felt like the right league at the right time.
“I can only really speak for the girls in Australia, but it's [the FA WSL] been on our radars for a while,” she said.
“It's just been more about waiting for the right time where the league has really started to take off and I think the last few years it has gone from strength to strength. The quality of the players that are here really is on par with America.”
I think you could argue that right now, this is the place where you want to be playing football, because you're coming up against the best players in the world week in, week out.”
While the FA WSL now boasts players from all over Europe and the rest of the world, the Australian contingent is definitely one of the more considerable in the league.
The nine current Westfield Matildas are spread across six different clubs with seven of them in London.
With clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal, West Ham and Tottenham represented, it also creates a new dynamic for the close national teammates.
Opening weekend alone will see Alanna Kennedy at Tottenham take on Mackenzie Arnold and Emily van Egmond’s West Ham. While Chloe Logarzo’s Bristol will host Hayley Raso’s Everton.
While they have played opposite one another in the Westfield W-League and in the NWSL, rivalries in the English league have a new level of intensity.
“For the Aussies playing over here, obviously they are some of my closest friends but when it comes to game day, then it's just all about the shirt that you're wearing.”
You will do whatever it takes to make sure you win, and I think that's something that's inbred in all of us, as footballers; we are winners. When it comes down to it they're in an opposite colour so your enemy for the day.”
Match day rivalries aside, Catley is proud to see so many Australians in big leagues and big clubs in Europe.
The demand for Australian players overseas speaks to not only the quality of the individual players but also the leagues that have played a part in their development; whether it’s the Westfield W-League, NWSL or Bundesliga.
“I think it’s basically down to us as individuals, going to clubs and performing on the biggest stages,” said Catley.
I suppose [I feel] pride when you look at it. A lot of the girls have signed at really good clubs and I'm just looking forward to watching everyone.
“I think our team and the individuals in our team, in the Matildas, have gone to a new level recently, so hopefully they can show that in this league and they can all do really well.
“I'm proud of everyone and excited to watch them.”
The FA Women’s Super League commences this Saturday.