A Beautiful Game: International Perspectives on Women's Football

By Jean Williams | Go to book overview

4
Waltzing the Matildas
Women’s Football in Australia

We find in a continent containing only 5,000,000 souls four football games played
during the winter, vis., Australian Football, Northern Union, Rugby Union and Soccer.
My contention is that Australia will be playing nothing but soccer in ten years’ time if
things go along as present. If the FA decided to spend some of its funds upon a touring
team or teams, the Association game would, I feel sure, be in full charge in this country
five years afterwards. What we need is a really first class exposition of soccer in each of the
States. The game here is improving rapidly but Billy Meredith and one or two others would
be fleet enough to walk around us. It is some picturesque play that we sadly need.1

Give Girls a Fair Go. Is the average Australian aware that this country has a women’s
national soccer team? The answer is simple—no. The main reason is that since 1975
Australia’s women’s team has played only three matches in Australia. Besides the wom-
en’s team lacking public identity with Australians, a further injustice exists for the girls
who make up the national team. Each player is responsible for her own air fares and
accommodation wherever the national team has to travel. Every player is responsible for
her own gear expenditure. Each girl forfeits wages whilst travelling and, because of the
nature of their code, cannot be compensated financially.2

In the year after the first excerpt appeared in Athletic News in England, Australia played what has been called their first national association football match against New Zealand in 1922 (the latter won 3–1).3 More than fifty years later, the initial official women’s international for The Matildas involved the same countries. To put this in context of the inception of Australian Rules football in 1858 and the Rugby Tests against England from 1888 is to see how the sport generally, and women’s participation especially, appear to have lagged behind as great sporting traditions, and in particular rivalries, have been constructed. As the second extract implies, the women’s soccer team were hampered by a lack of resources from 1969 to 1995 to the extent of playing several unofficial and the first eight authorized representative games against the New Zealand SWANZ (as the women’s team are called). Fortunately, the ambitions of the women players have overcome the lack of means, and their enthusiasm had already developed beyond this traditional rivalry. Twenty-five years to the day after they had played the first A-international recognized by the Australian Football Association (AFA), in 1979, the team had played 169 games and

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