The Matildas are the new face of Australian football

-

The Matildas’ stock is rising. From records and rivalries to rubbing shoulders with the biggest footballing nations in the world, they have given Australian football a shiny new star to follow.

The Matildas have been growing into Australia’s sporting heroines for the last few years. Since their round of 16 finish in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, support has skyrocketed. Be that bodies through the turnstiles or eyes on the television.

Embed from Getty Images

The belated Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 turned out to be one of the Matildas’ most exciting endeavours in their history. Their fourth-placed finish and narrow shortfall of Olympic bronze raking in brand new viewership highs for women’s sport.

In their round two meeting with eventual silver medalists Sweden, they broke the record for the most viewed women’s team sport match in Australian television history, as 1,468,000 people tuned in for the group game. They would absolutely smash this record later in the same tournament, when 2.32 million Australians watched on as the Matildas were knocked-out by Sweden at the semi-final stage in a 1-0 defeat.

They must have enjoyed breaking records. When they finally returned to their homeland in October 2021, Matildas supporters came out in their tens of thousands to welcome back their favourite football team. Over 27,000 supporters flocked to Commbank Stadium to watch the latest chapter in their fierce rivalry with Brazil.

However, in modern Matildas fashion, when crowd restrictions were lifted before the team’s November return against the USA, 36,109 people packed into Stadium Australia. The highest attendance at a Matildas home game just the most recent record to fall in their rise to the top of Australian sport.

Embed from Getty Images

To suggest that the Matildas have newly become the flagship of Australian football implies that another team sat on that perch and has recently vacated it. The success and hype around Australia’s footballing women is growing more and more incomparable to that of the men. Matildas going up as the Socceroos go down, if Australian football was on a seesaw, it would be growing a little boring for the men.

On the third of November this year, the Socceroos took the field at Commbank Stadium in a World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia. Within weeks of the Matildas smashing their home attendance record in a friendly game, the Socceroos drew a crowd of only 23,314.

Embed from Getty Images

In the Socceroos’ official list of their five biggest crowd attendances, the most recent was 15 years ago in 2006. This doesn’t at all suggest that the Socceroos have a lack of supporters – some of the numbers in that list are incredible. It does however show how in complete contrast to the Matildas, the interest in and success of Australia’s men’s team is on a downward trajectory and has been for some time.

The year 2006 was the pinnacle for the Socceroos. Their finest ever World Cup finish saw them unashamedly knocked out in the round of 16 at the hands of the Italians, who went on to lift the trophy. Mark Viduka, John Aloisi, Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill. “Aussie Guus” and his boys in gold.

They are yet to have it so good in the 15 years since.

Embed from Getty Images

Their triumph in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup shouldn’t go without recognition and praise, but even that was six years ago. In the following 2019 tournament, they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by the United Arab Emirates.

As the Matildas smash attendance records in a friendly, the Socceroos attract 15,000 less to a World Cup qualifier. As the Matildas look ahead to hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup where they’ll again rival fierce enemies Brazil and world champions the USA, the Socceroos head down to Melbourne to face Vietnam as their recent mediocrity forces them to take the obscured, treacherous, dirt road in their qualification bid for 2022. As Cahill and co. slip from Australia’s grasp, skipper Sam Kerr and ever-aggressive and exciting Ellie Carpenter are shortlisted for the FIFA FIFPRO Women’s World XI.

The Matildas are flying. Into the business end of international football, onto our screens and into our hearts. The Australian football flag that has been hanging from the pole in melancholy reflection of its golden era is being flown by a new and exciting entity. With the Matildas, a footballing nation can look forward again.

Feature Image Credit: The Matildas

Enjoy this content? Support The Football Sack

Due in part to COVID and lack of current sponsorship we are at risk of not having the funds to continue running The Football Sack. If you enjoy our content and support our work in training talented young writers, please support us with a donation. If every reader contributed just $3, our funding would be covered for over ten years.

DONATE

Learn with us

Tom Macraehttp://medium.com/@macraetomr23
Communications undergrad at Western Sydney University covering Macarthur FC in the 2021/22 season. Newcastle United. Jack Grealish fangirl.

Latest Articles

Love your football?
Subscribe to our weekly football wrap. During the season we'll send you all the week's football action straight to your inbox.
* indicates required