How the Matildas captured the hearts of Aussies everywhere and changed women’s sport forever

"We've made history!"
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Matildas winger Hayley Raso said it best when she was asked to comment after Australia’s unbelievable FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter-final victory against the French on August 12. “We’ve made history,” the 28-year-old exclaimed to reporters following the awe-inspiring match. 

Truer words have never been spoken. With sold-out stadiums, record-breaking TV ratings and merchandise sales, and the players fast becoming household names, our beloved Tillies have been riding a national tidal wave of support all the way to their historic World Cup semi-final. 

Watch Below: Matildas Speak Out About Poor Prize Money In FIFA Women’s Soccer

As WHO went to print, the country was bracing itself for another nail-biting match against England, with at-home audience numbers expected to exceed the 7.2 million people that tuned in to watch the Aussie team’s clash against European heavyweights France. That’s not to mention the thousands more that were glued to big screens at parks, pubs and clubs across the nation to cheer on our girls. 

While Australia did not prevail over England, the nation could not be prouder of our girls. 

The attention is relatively new territory for the Matildas and a stark contrast to just under a decade ago when a crowd of just 2,583 turned up to watch them play against Brazil in Queensland in 2014, with a second match Down Under being closed off to fans due to poor ticket sales. 

Katrina Gorry, pictured with daughter Harper after the Aug. 12 match, revealed her fiancée’s father had passed away just days before. “I just wanted to play for him and make him proud,” she said post-match. (Credit: Instagram)

But despite fans in an utter frenzy over the semi-final clash, win or lose, the team have cemented themselves as heroes of Australian sport.

“Regardless of what happens, what we need to do is to have a proper celebration for the Matildas and their achievements,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese shared while discussing the possibility of a public holiday if the team won the comp and took out the World Cup. “It has been extraordinary the way that they’ve carried themselves, not just on the field during a game but afterwards as well.” 

While they’ve already made history by reaching the semi-finals, this squad will be remembered for much more than that impressive achievement. Earlier this year, the team reached a collective bargaining agreement with Football Australia that guarantees they get the same minimum percentage of prize money from events as the men’s team, the Socceroos, along with the same conditions – the first female football team in the world to do so. They also continue to be the catalyst for change in other areas of sport and the community. 

Cortnee Vine, who struck home the instantly-iconic penalty to win the Aug. 12 match, has played for Sydney F.C. since 2020. (Credit: Getty)

“I genuinely really believe that this team can create history in so many ways, not just winning football games,” head coach Tony Gustavsson says of his golden girls. “The way that they can inspire the next generation, how they unite a nation or they can leave a legacy that’s so much bigger than 90 minutes of football.” 

Whether the outcome of the final game that the Matildas will play agains Sweden is in our favour or not, the iconic team will leave the tournament having won the hearts of the nation. Many will go back to their international A-League clubs, from England to Europe and the US. Some have weddings to plan, with four team members getting engaged within the last year. And all of them will be soaking up quiet moments with their family and friends before they reunite again on the field in October for the 2024 Olympic qualifiers. 

After their memorable efforts, one thing is for certain. “What we’ve done has changed women’s sport in Australia,” explains Ellie Carpenter. “This is what we wanted to do. We wanted to inspire the next generation and pave the way for women’s football in Australia.”

“How far we’ve come is just unimaginable,” Ellie Carpenter has said of the Aussie team. (Credit: Getty)

Stats & Facts

  • 11.15 million: The people who tuned in to watch the semifinals game on Seven
  • 1978: The year the women’s team officially formed
  • 1995: The year the newly-dubbed ‘matildas’ qualified for their first world cup
  • $20,000: The amount they were paid in 2015 to play per year, a 10th of the socceroos salary at the time

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