12 months on from celebrating the 40 year anniversary of Australia's first 'A' international, women's football in Australia has leapt forward once again.
Forty one years ago a piece of Australian football history was written. The Westfield Matildas were taking on New Zealand in their first ‘A’ international; a match which ended 2-2.
Fast forward 40 years and the milestone game was celebrated at Seymour Shaw Park in Miranda. The Matildas of then and the Matildas of now congregated at the ground to acknowledge the match and celebrate the pioneers of the team.
Progress is sometimes hard to recognise in the moment. It crystallises with the benefit of hindsight. Last year, 40 years of progress was finally appropriately acknowledged, a plaque now permanently situated at the ground so future generations will always know. It was a time for reflection on how far we’d come and how much further we have to go.
And now, a year on from that celebration, the Westfield Matildas can look back at the past 12 months and see that history has continued to be made and the push for progress on and off the field is ongoing.
Only a month after the 40 year anniversary in November 2019, Australia’s national teams took a massive step forward in the fight for equality.
Football Federation Australia (FFA) and Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) created a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which would see the pay gap between the national teams close.
The teams would now be afforded the same high performance set ups and standards, as well as a pay deal which reflected the hard work of every national team player.
Even in the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, a revised CBA has ensured that equality hasn’t been sacrificed.
Later that same week in 2019, a record crowd would watch the Westfield Matildas beat Chile at Bankwest Stadium. A Sam Kerr double securing the 2-1 win.
The 20,029 strong crowd is currently the largest to ever watch a standalone women’s football game in this country. A record which will surely tumble in three years.
The January transfer window saw our Aussies begin to take over Europe with the biggest names landing at the biggest clubs in the world.
Sam Kerr’s move to Chelsea was finalised, Caitlin Foord signed for Arsenal, Hayley Raso put pen to paper linking up with Everton and Chloe Logarzo agreed to head to Bristol City.
The New Year presented new opportunities with Olympic Qualifiers first on the agenda. The COVID-19 pandemic once again threw a spanner in the works, but FFA was able to host the qualifying tournament at the last minute.
And the Westfield Matildas were able to get the job done on the pitch. Big wins over Chinese Taipei and Thailand and a heart stopping draw with China meant the team topped their group. They followed it up with a 7-1 aggregate win over Vietnam in the final playoff round to secure a spot at Tokyo 2020.
The moves abroad continued after the Westfield W-League season ended with every member of that Olympic Qualifiers squad now spread across Europe.
Then in June, the news that the FIFA Women's World Cup would be coming to Australia and New Zealand in 2023.
The Westfield Matildas images on the Sydney Opera House were beamed around the world with cap #1 Julie Dolan watching on.
It seemed fitting that the two nations that started their women's football journeys together would combine for the biggest women's sporting event in the world.
With players plying their trade from France to Spain, Norway to the UK, and Sweden to the Netherlands, focus turned to who would be leading this group of players.
The vacant head coach position was filled by Tony Gustavsson. His appointment as the new Westfield Matildas head coach was the first step in this exciting, upcoming four year cycle.
A year is a long time and the anniversary of the first ‘A’ international gives the football community a chance to look back.
We reflect not only on the trailblazers of 1979, those who supported them, and what they achieved, but we reflect on more recent developments. All of which is built on those trailblazers and can only be properly appreciated with a little bit of time.