Trans-Tasman rivals: Classic matches between the Westfield Matildas and Football Ferns

As ANZAC Day reminded us, Australia and New Zealand are  just distant cousins separated by the Tasman Sea.

While the two nations have stood side by side on many occasions, on the sporting field Australia and New Zealand have built the kind of fierce rivalry you’d expect between two nations who are each other’s closest neighbours.

Since their first meeting in 1975, the Westfield Matildas and the Football Ferns have played out some classic football matches.

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We remember some of the tightest contests between the Trans-Tasman rivals, celebrating their sportsmanship and competitiveness.

Gorry and Hassett
Katrina Gorry and Betsy Hassett compete for the ball

1991 – New Zealand 1-0 Australia

The 70s and 80s saw an arm wrestle for dominance in this rivalary and heading into the 90s, New Zealand appeared to have an edge.  

Heading into the 90s, the Football Ferns made the most of that edge producing an impressive and polished performance against the Westfield Matildas in this FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying match.

Competent and fast with the ball the Football Ferns cracked through the Westfield Matildas defence with the legendary Wendy Sharpe netting the only goal of the match.

2003 – Australia 2-0 New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand met in 2003 for passionate do-or-die battle for a place at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in the United States. The threat of the Kiwi presence lasted throughout the game, but the Westfield Matildas secured control on the match early on.

Despite missing Cheryl Sailsbury and Kelly Golebiowski, Australia sparked the game to life. Danielle Small was fouled deep in Australia's attacking half, allowing Joanne Peters to run onto the ball and surge towards goal.

New Zealand had some great chances but could not turn their opportunities into goals. 

2008 – Australia 4-2 New Zealand

It may have just been a friendly match, but this game was filled with drama right from the start. Marred by high winds, the spirited Football Ferns held a 2-1 advantage at the end of half-time.

Munoz and Yallop
Caitlin Munoz gets away from Kirsty Yallop

The Westfield Matildas were forced to come from behind in order to extend their winning streak against New Zealand to 14 matches at the time.

New Zealand took the lead through Merissa Smith and captain Hayley Moorewood. Australia's own captain Cheryl Salisbury and midfielder Collette McCallum found their way onto the scoreboard to equalise in the second half. However, it was Clare Polkinghorne’s maiden goal for the Westfield Matildas in injury time that sealed the match.

The game also saw Westfield Matildas' defensive stalwart Dianne Alagich who, after 86 caps, bowed out of international football.  

Dianne Alagich Farewell
Dianne Alagich says farewell to the national team

2012 – Australia 1-1 New Zealand

A last gasp equaliser from defender Thea Slatyer ended New Zealand's hopes of breaking an 18-year winless record against the Westfield Matildas.

An early second half goal from striker Hayley Moorwood opened the scoring following a strong period of dominance from the New Zealand side.

Raso and Erceg
Hayley Raso on debut with Abby Erceg

Slatyer broke Football Ferns' hearts in the 93rd minute when she powered home an Ellyse Perry corner to make it 1-1 in the final moments of play. New Zealand tried to take control with a series of corners but could not find a weakness in the Westfield Matildas defence.

The match also saw the debuts of future Westfield Matildas' stars Alanna Kennedy, Steph Catley and Hayley Raso.  

Matildas celebrate
The Westfield Matildas celebrate a last minute goal by Thea Slatyer

2013 - Australia 1-1 (4pk -2pk) New Zealand

The Westfield Matildas claimed an international friendly win over New Zealand but not before the 1-1 draw turned into a tense penalty shoot-out to claim the Centenary Cup.

Australia took the lead in the 11th minute through Clare Polkinghorne with the defender glancing home a header from Servet Uzunlar’s corner. 

Playing catch up, New Zealand were level just before the break through speedy striker Sarah Gregorius. 

The second half saw a classic, Australia and New Zealand tussle with the Westfield Matildas’ going closest to breaking the deadlock with a goal line scramble near full time. 

Westfield Matildas 'keeper Brianna Davey then played hero with two outstanding saves in the penalty shoot-out denying New Zealand’s Katie Hoyle and Amber Hearn.

Impressive Football Ferns keeper Erin Nayler also had a good shootout but Sam Kerr sealed the shootout and the Centenary Cup for Australia.  

Australia pose for a team photograph with the Centenary Cup