Game Changers Pt II - Brought to you by Commonwealth Bank

While the Commonwealth Bank Matildas have many unique experiences when it comes to showcasing their 'Never Say Die' spirit, one thing that unites them is their resilience and ambition.

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Commonwealth Bank and Football Australia recently launched a historic partnership to strengthen all levels of the game and give all women and girls the chance to realise their ambition through football.

As the partnership kicks off, we look at some of the role models in the current Commonwealth Bank Matildas squad, and the resilience that has characterised their journeys to the top.

In Part II of “Game Changers” brought to you by Commonwealth Bank, we look at how the young guns of the Commonwealth Bank Matildas are using their ambition to set the pace for women’s football in Australia.

It is essential to any national team to consistently nurture the next generation of great football players and the Commonwealth Bank Matildas have always fostered young talent, with fresh faces and fresh legs being a constant fixture of the team.

When given the opportunity, these young players have demonstrated their ambition to turn exceptional talents into results for their team and country.

Cortnee Vine, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Courtney Nevin, Charli Grant and Remy Siemsen in Mumbai, India.
Cortnee Vine, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Courtney Nevin, Charli Grant and Remy Siemsen in Mumbai, India.

Although the Matildas’ ‘one day better’ mantra came in under new Head Coach, Tony Gustavsson, most players already embodied the mindset, including these young guns.

Courtney Nevin was just 14 when she asked her father to build a practice goal at home to help improve her skill level. Not content with just practicing on the pitch, she wanted to take every opportunity to improve in her spare time.

Nevin’s family and coaches could see potential in her from a young age, encouraging her football journey.

Her drive to be the best player she could has seen Nevin travel around the world perfecting her trade, earing her first cap for the Matildas against Sweden in June 2021 at 19 years old.

Although the stadiums she plays on now differ to the goals she practiced on in her backyard as a youth, all the lessons learnt have helped turn her into the player she is today. 

The intrinsic ambition of these young women drives them to accept nothing than the best from themselves. Another player that knows this passion is fellow 20-year-old midfielder Kyra Cooney-Cross.  

Cooney-Cross’ family are no strangers to the football community, with Kyra’s dad, Jai, playing football at the semi-professional level in Queensland with the Sunshine Coast Fire.

This immersion into the football community from a young age shaped Kyra into the player she is today, often playing regularly with more senior boys and girls. These challenges drove the young footballer to succeed, with Kyra quickly becoming one of the most promising youth talents in Australia.

Kyra Cooney-Cross after USA game

Opportunities to play football at an elite level do not always occur in the backyards of our Commonwealth Bank Matildas, with youngsters often making the difficult choice to leave behind their friends and family to play interstate or overseas at a higher level, sometimes even in countries where they may not speak the language.

Several of our young talented players have taken this path in order to push them to be the best.

Mary Fowler is one young player who made the decision at the start of 2020 to move her life to France, signing a three-year deal with Montpellier HSC. 

Fowler is no stranger to playing overseas, earning her first cap for Australia at just 15 years old, becoming the fifth youngest player for the Matildas. The 19-year-old forward has had trials with some of the top women’s teams in the world; Chelsea, West Ham and Manchester City to name a few.

Her decision to settle her life in Montpellier has helped Fowler improve her abilities, getting regular minutes in one of the best leagues in the world and is able to translate this success on the international stage with Australia.

Fowler made her Olympic Games debut at Tokyo 2020, showcasing her talents on and off the ball, scoring a memorable goal at the Olympic Games against Team GB.

A bit closer to home Fowler played her first game on home soil for Australia in October, playing against Brazil, the country she made her debut against back in 2018.

The young forward impressed fans during the two-match series, scoring a perfectly placed header in the Matildas 3-1 win over rivals Brazil and earning Player of the Match.

Domestically Fowler is thriving in France, starting to find her feet for Montpellier and scoring regularly. The young player’s ambition to move abroad to chase her dreams and further her career can be seen in her ability now.

Nineteen-year-old Charlotte Grant is another player who has made the move abroad, playing in Sweden with FC Rosengård.

The move has allowed Grant to train with some of the best footballers in the world on a regular basis, and in turn, impressed Australian coaching staff enough to earn a call up to the Olympic Games.

Grant’s time in Sweden has seen her grow with confidence, able to perfect her abilities surrounded by other quality players.

Charli Grant making her international debut against the Republic of Ireland in September, 2021.
Charli Grant making her international debut against the Republic of Ireland in September, 2021.

The defender made her debut against The Republic of Ireland, after waiting in the wings during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Since then, Grant has helped FC Rosengård lift the 2021 Damallsvenskan Champions and secure the chance to compete in the UEFA Women’s Champions League next season.

Grant’s short time with the team has seen find her style, playing with freedom on the pitch and able to use her explosive pace to worry defenders. The Matildas ‘Never Say Die’ attitude is on full display in Grant’s play ability, showing the power of perseverance.

Local leagues around Australia are a place for young players to get their first opportunity to impress, with the W-League stacked with Commonwealth Bank Matildas, A-League Women’s veterans and high-quality international players that certainly raise the bar of this amazing league.

Our somewhat new face in camp is Remy Siemsen, 22 who competes in the A-League Women’s and have gained experience in her own backyard.

Siemsen has been a familiar face in the A-League Women’s for over six years, starting her career with Sydney FC. Her many seasons have seen her play with and against some familiar faces, with Caitlin Foord and Kyah Simon some of Remy’s biggest mentors.

Her time in the A-League Women’s has seen her flourish into the player she is today, the young striker has in turn made her debut for her country on the biggest stage. Siemsen made her debut against Brazil in Sydney, in front of adoring family and friends.

Her first appearance for her country was described by the striker has a lifelong dream, with all the sacrifice herself and family made finally coming to fruition.

Siemsen is still thriving in the A-League Women’s, sitting at the top of the golden boot race. However, the young player can see if she wants to continue to push herself to the next level, she needs to make the move abroad and thrive to be a better player.

The off-season saw Siemsen train with some fellow Australians at Fortuna Hjørring in Denmark, loving the experience and getting a taste of what life could be like abroad for her career.

Holly McNamara has had a whirlwind few months, signing her first professional contract with Melbourne City and a call up to Australia’s 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup squad.

McNamara’s short career has been plagued with injuries, part of the Junior Matildas team ahead of their 2019 AFC U-16 Women's Championship qualification campaign, the 15-year-old tore her ACL before she had the chance to make her debut for the side.

After rehabbing her ACL injury and determined to come back stronger the COVID-19 pandemic brought McNamara’s season to a grinding halt.

Two years late a stress fracture to her foot would see Holly sidelined once again, forced to watch on as her young teammates signed their first professional contracts and made appearances for Australia at the youth level.

Despite the setbacks thrown her way Holly persevered and got her health back on track, signing her first professional contract with Melbourne City for the 2021/22 A-League Women’s season.

McNamara made her debut for City in early December and scored a stunning goal in the 80th minute to secure their first win of the season against Canberra United.

After only playing five games with City, McNamara had 3 assists and a goal to her name to show for her breakout start to the season.

Her excellent form was rewarded with a call-up to Australia’s training squad before the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, a gruelling camp in Dubai saw head coach Tony Gustavsson make his final two selections for the upcoming tournament. Holly impressed coaching staff and secured a spot on the plane to India.

Three years after her dreams were cut short of representing her country the forwards dreams became a reality, being subbed on for captain Sam Kerr in Australia’s 18-0 win over Indonesia. 

Sadly, almost a month after making her dream debut injury would once again plague the young forward's career. Another ACL tear, this time to McNamara's left knee in City's 2-1 win over Sydney FC will see the teenager sidelined once again. 

However, Holly is in good spirits and has nothing but belief this injury will make her stronger than before. With a FIFA Women's World Cup on the horizon the teenager has her sights set on rehabbing her injury and earning another call up.

Remy Siemsen’s partner in crime at Sydney FC, Cortnee Vine, is Australia’s most recent debutant, becoming cap #220 at the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.  

Cortnee too has had a young career halted by injury, her first season at Sydney FC saw the speedy winger score four goals and pick up three assists to help the Sky Blue win the Premiership.

After appearing for Australia at the under-17 and under-20 national team level, Cortnee was under the watchful eye of Tony Gustavsson and his coaching staff as she starred for Sydney FC.

However, her dream season with Sydney FC came crashing down before their semi-final berth, with an MRI scan revealing a torn medial collateral ligament.

This injury couldn’t have come at a more heartbreaking time for the forward, missing Sydney FC’s 1-0 loss in the final but also on the cusp of being named in the Matildas’ Talent ID camp being held in Sydney.

After rehabbing her injury Vine picked up right where she left off for Sydney FC in the 2021/22 season, scoring four goals in the season so far.

Vine’s form for Sydney impressed Gustavsson, calling her up to the pre-camp in Dubai alongside attacking partner Remy Siemsen.

Gustavsson was keeping a close eye on Vine’s time with Sydney, impressed with her ability to run at defenders and get the ball into the goal.

Her short time training with team saw her fit in seamlessly, rewarded with a place in the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup squad.

Vine’s debut came against Philippines in Australia’s 4-0 win, coming off the bench and impressing instantly. Dangerous attacking runs up the right flank and her speed saw the winger become an instant weapon on the field.

While Holly McNamara and Cortnee Vine only have a handful of appearances in the senior squad to their name, both showed the importance of giving opportunities to young players on the international stage.

This new generation welcomes the challenge and the honour of representing their country on the international stage.  It is clear their own ambition will help them feel right at home among one of the most driven teams in international football.

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This article was originally published on the CommBank Matildas website.