The Sport Australia Hall of Fame is recognising trailblazing women with its two biggest honours in 2023: The Don Award for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ CommBank Matildas and The Dawn Award for the 2000 Sydney Olympics Women’s Water Polo Team.
The Don Award, named in recognition of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s inaugural Inductee, Sir Donald Bradman AC, and introduced in 1998, is considered the highest of all honours in Australian sport, awarded to an athlete or a team for providing the most inspiration to the nation through performance and example in the past year.
THE DON AWARD
The CommBank Matildas earned The Don Award for their remarkable performance in becoming the first Australian team to make a senior FIFA World Cup – men’s or women’s – semi-final. The CommBank Matildas caused a seismic sporting shift: transforming women’s football, uniting the country, inspiring the next generation of hopefuls, and further elevating women’s sport with a long-deserved national profile. What the CommBank Matildas achieved in the lead-up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, and the tournament proper, was ground-breaking. They smashed numerous records along the way, drawing extraordinary crowds to their games: nearly two million spectators at stadiums and hundreds of thousands at live sites across the country. On TV broadcast, their semi-final against England was the highest rating program in Australia since the current television ratings system began in 2001.
The “Tillies”, as we called them, rode a huge wave of support to become our most talked-about and loved national team. It was fitting that Australia & New Zealand’s joint bid for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup had the slogan “As One”, for the CommBank Matildas united the nation in our consciousness and our hearts as star names like Sam Kerr, Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord, Mackenzie Arnold, Mary Fowler and Cortnee Vine became instantly recognisable.
The home side defeated Ireland 1-0 in their first group stage match, lost 2-3 to Nigeria, and fought back to crush Canada 4-0. In the Round of 16, a 2-0 victory over Denmark qualified the CommBank Matildas for the quarter-finals, where a nil-all draw against France after extra time created one of the most unforgettable moments in the history of Australian sport: a nail-biting penalty shoot-out that had the nation on the edge of its seats.
The longest shoot-out in FIFA World Cup history, men’s or women’s, ebbed and flowed before the penalty from substitute Cortnee Vine gave the CommBank Matildas a 7-6 victory and a place in the semi-final against England. Despite losing 3-1 in the semi-final and then going down 2-0 to Sweden in the bronze medal match, the CommBank Matildas went out winners in the eyes of an adoring public.
The CommBank Matildas' remarkable FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign gave heart to a generation of young girls and boys to start chasing their own dreams. Their FIFA World Cup campaign was a breakthrough not only for women in sport but for Australian sport in general, and their legacy is beyond dispute.