The development of women’s football in Australia has been an incredibly long journey, requiring a persistent effort to give it a voice and have it gain the respect it deserves.
Despite the success of the Matildas, inspiring a nation during the Women’s World Cup on home soil, there were fears raised that it could be only as much as a sugar hit.
Without question, there were many who jumped on the hype train with the incredible media coverage, helped out by the favourable time zone. Some of those people won’t care to watch another football match, but the legacy left behind from the tournament remains very real.
As for how the Matildas’ legacy will hold up over time, this will depend partly on how the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) set out to capitalise on their momentum.
Allowing the women’s competition to begin one week before the men has paved the way for important recognition. It gives the league a platform to grow for the weeks to come.
What we discovered throughout the World Cup was that the Australian public had committed themselves learning about the stories of other players in the squad. It wasn’t all about Sam Kerr.
Stories like Courtnee Vine, who scored the winning penalty against France, Kyah Simon coming back from a serious knee injury, Tameka Yallop, who returns to the A-League for 2023/24, and veteran goalkeeper Lydia Williams. They are all players representing clubs in Australia this season.
Add in those who missed out on World Cup selection. With the likes of Chloe Logarzo, Emily Gielnik, and Elise Kellond-Knight, the Liberty A-League now has a valuable foundation to carry forward the momentum of the national team.
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Will the fans turn out in numbers and prove that their interest in women’s football is continually growing?
After a 14-year absence from the competition, the Central Coast Mariners made their long-awaited return in the F3 derby against the Newcastle Jets to kick off the new season.
A crowd of 5,735 in Gosford broke the record for a standalone home and away fixture.
A few hours later, the Sydney Derby drew 11,471 spectators to mark the biggest crowd for a domestic match in Australian football history.
Combining those two numbers, 17,206 broke the record attendance for a single round of the Liberty A-League with four games remaining.
One word; legacy.
The next generation has clearly been inspired, with participation numbers already head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.
Not only are the experienced players stepping up to the mark, but the potential to watch players in the youth system grow is an exciting thought.
Brisbane Roar’s new number 10 in the form of 16-year-old Grace Kuilamu, 17-year-old Melbourne City talent Daniela Galic, and 20-year-old midfield starlet Hana Lowry from Perth Glory, are just a few examples of the bright young stars Australia has at its disposal.
The scouting department deserves its fair share of plaudits for identifying these promising prospects from all over the country, including the metropolitan leagues.
The results from the opening weekend suggest that expansion to 12 teams was the right call, as all six contests were closely contested with a mix of physicality and tactical nous.
Suddenly, everything seems to be falling into place for a competition that is finally reaping the rewards of their efforts.
The question now turns to whether this level of success, both on and off the pitch, can be sustained. Time will ultimately tell.
In the meantime though, it is only right to soak in the reality and appreciate how women’s football has grown in leaps and bounds.