Six years ago today, Westfield Matildas midfielder Katrina Gorry walked across a stage in the Philippines and made history.
At the AFC Annual Awards in Manila, the then-Brisbane Roar player was named Australia’s youngest ever female winner of the Asian Player of the Year, collecting the top gong at just 22 years old.
Gorry’s rise to the peak of Asian women’s football was as rapid as one of her long-range strikes.
She debuted for the Westfield Matildas just two years earlier, coming on as a substitute in a friendly against Japan in the build-up to the 2012 London Olympic Games.
While Australia lost 3-0 that day, Gorry would get her own light-hearted revenge on her Asian rivals, beating Japan’s Aya Miyama and Nahomi Kawasumi for the AFC’s most prestigious individual award in 2014.
Gorry was crucial to Australia’s run through the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Vietnam. Finishing second as Player of the Tournament, the attack-minded “Mini” scored three spectacular goals to help the Westfield Matildas qualify for the final against Japan.
"My memories of that year were the success of the Matildas," Gorry told matildas.com.au. We were starting to build something pretty special as a team and starting to believe in ourselves and the players around us.
I was playing with a whole load of confidence and really enjoying my football and I guess that showed in the way I was playing at the time."
As a consequence, the team earned a spot at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, where they would go on to record the best-ever result by an Australian side at football’s biggest global competition.
Gorry became just the second Australian to win AFC Player of the Year after former Westfield Matilda and current PFA co-chief executive Kate Gill took out the award in 2010. Sam Kerr became the third Aussie to claim it in 2017.
"Obviously the AFC was a huge honour for me to receive. It is something that I will hold really close to my heart for the rest of my life and look back on the many memories we made for those years."
While her top national team form over this period didn’t quite translate to trophies at Westfield W-League level, Gorry still made a major impact for Brisbane Roar, scoring 5 goals and helping them finishing runners-up in the finals of the 2013/14 season.
She also earned her first overseas contract in 2014, signing for FC Kansas City in the United States and helping the team win the NWSL in her debut season.
Gorry would go on to represent the Westfield Matildas over fifty more times, including at two Women’s World Cups, the Rio Olympics, the 2017 Tournament of Nations and the 2018 Women’s Asian Cup, while also playing club football in Japan, the US, Australia and Norway.
Looking back the midfielder believes it was an important period in building the foundations for the Westfield Matildas and for her as a player.
Those few years for the Matildas were definitely a real breakthrough," Gorry said.
We really started believing in what we could achieve as a team and I think players have just developed to world class players now."
"It's really exciting to see and all of us to be still be in and around the national team, supporting each other no matter where they are in the world."
"Those years for me shaped me to be the person, more so than the player than I am today."