Sam Kerr is hoping her Australia side can inspire the nation and leave a legacy when they host the 2023 Women’s World Cup alongside New Zealand, with the tournament kicking off on Thursday.
A 23-player squad was confirmed earlier this month and will go forward to represent the Matildas at their home World Cup, where Kerr will be wearing the captain’s armband and leading her team out with the eyes of the world on the showpiece event.
Australia get their group-stage campaign underway against the Republic of Ireland on 20 July in Sydney, before travelling to Brisbane to take on Nigeria on 27 July ahead of their final group game against Canada on 31 July in Melbourne.
Domestically, it was a hugely successful season for Kerr on and off the pitch. From scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup final at Wembley to being named the Football Writers’ Association Women’s Footballer of the Year award – the first player to achieve this twice in a row.
Speaking at the FWA Awards Dinner in May, Kerr talked about embracing the challenges that come with hosting a World Cup. She wants to change the perception of the women’s game globally and galvanise the home support.
‘It does add pressure, but it’s a nice pressure. Pressure is a privilege and it’s something over the last year we’ve really worked at playing at home, having an expectation, but we’re trying to enjoy it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play a World Cup on home soil. We’re hoping we can inspire the nation and change the way women’s football is seen all around the world.
‘I love the pressure, I love the big games and the big moments. The point of this World Cup is to go there and win it but also to inspire the nation, do what the Lionesses did for England and the rest of the world. It’s much bigger than football but we’re ready to take it on and enjoy it!’
Kerr paid tribute to trailblazers such as Aboriginal athlete Cathy Freeman, who won gold in the 400m at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, praising her impact and the legacy she has left which has inspired the next generation.
‘Speaking to people who have gone through this, we have the legend Cathy Freeman that all of us girls look up to and who did this exact thing 20 years ago. Hopefully in 20 years’ time, people are talking about the Matildas and what we did.
‘If I can be half of what Cathy Freeman was to our country that would be a dream come true. She is still my childhood hero growing up.’
While preparing to represent her country on the pitch, Kerr has quite literally been flying the flag for Australia off the field too. She was selected to be the flag bearer for Australia at The Coronation of His Majesty The King in May - a proud moment for both her and her family.
‘Nobody could have imagined where the women’s game could take me. I’m just a young girl from Perth and I still feel like a young girl from Perth. To people around the world, Perth is such a small place.
‘It was an amazing honour for me but really important for my family, for my grandma who migrated to Australia, so it was a really proud moment. It might have seemed small to some people but in 30 years’ time, that is probably going to be one of the proudest moments of my career.’