Westfield W-League club teammates and international competitors, Steph Catley and Rebekah Stott’s special friendship symbolises the bond between Australia and New Zealand.
Steph Catley and Rebekah Stott are familiar with the feeling of playing together in the same colours one week and facing each other in a different jersey the next.
The relationship between the two stems from their time at the U17 Westield Junior Matildas camp at the Australian Institute of Sport almost a decade ago.
Two teens trying to make friends in an unfamiliar atmosphere.
It was friendship at first sight and Catley remembers how comfortable Stott made her feel in an intimidating environment, while Stott thanks the camp for giving her a best friend in Catley.
Despite that first camp together, international football soon took the two friends down opposite roads - Catley to become a star with the Westfield Matildas, and Stott to follow the heritage of her family through the Football Ferns.
It was unsurprising that in Catley’s debut match back in 2013, Stott was present, albeit on the other side of the pitch.
“It was such a weird situation because we both had to make sure the other didn't have a good game,” Catley remembered.
“But in the same sense you want the best for them, so it was a weird situation.”
In the intervening years Catley and Stott have become key members of their respective national teams and represented their nations at FIFA Women’s World Cups and Olympic Games.
It is that understanding of what is required on the world stage that feeds the mutual admiration, praise and respect they hold for one another and the role they have representing their countries.
Catley’s bond with Stott is so special that she cannot even say her first name without it sounding too funny to her.
“Stotty, I can't call her Rebekah with a straight face, is one of my favourite teammates in the entire world” Catley said with a smile.
If I could take a teammate with me to every club team I played for, I'd take Stotty. She's no fuss, ridiculously consistent, unbelievably reliable and one of the best overall footballers I've ever played alongside.”
“She's underrated in world football but she's the last person you'll ever hear complain about it.”
The compliments are sent in return to Catley, as Stott believes that consistency and having a great personality contributes to Catley being ‘one of the best fullbacks in the world’.
“Steph is not only the best teammate but also a great leader. She's funny, down to earth and genuinely such a great human,” Stott said.
On the field you can always count on Steph to play amazing. She is so consistent; she always brings a hunger to win and will demand good standards.”
The two defenders describe the football relationship between Australia and New Zealand in a similar way, highlighting the friendship but also competitive edge between the two nations.
“I would say it’s a sibling type of relationship, where you’re ultra-competitive with each other, but on the big stage I do like seeing [New Zealand] do well in most sports,” Catley said.
Catley and the Westfield Matildas currently hold bragging rights over New Zealand, with a strong hold on results against their ‘sibling’ but it is never an easy contest.
“It’s definitely a massive rivalry, every time is such a big game,” Stott said.
“Obviously, a lot of the players know each other so we always want to try and beat them. We have come close a few times but have never won since I've been on team.”
MORE: Classic matches between the Westfield Matildas and Football Ferns
MORE: Experienced ‘Starting XI’ to help drive Australian football forward
But what about when playing each other? Country versus country is one thing, but best friend versus best friend is something unique.
At the end of the day, they each want to represent their countries in the best possible way.
However, the opportunity for the two nations to come together As One for Australia and New Zealand FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Bid means the two are back on the same team.
Both players have parental ties to Australia and New Zealand and the prospect of hosting the world’s biggest women’s sporting event in the two nations thrills the duo.
“I think it'd be an incredible FIFA Women’s World Cup. Both countries have unique cultures but are known for being multicultural, welcoming and warm to visitors,” Catley said enthusiastically.
“The people, stadiums and overall landscapes of both countries would set the stage for one of the most amazing Women’s World Cups ever.”
“It would be amazing to host the FIFA Women's World Cup together,” Stott agreed.
“For me in particular both countries mean a lot to me, so to be able to play in a Women’s World Cup on home soil would be one of the best things in my life.”
“I’m sure that would be the same for every player from both teams.”