She is one of our greatest ever footballers and Lisa De Vanna believes St George and Sutherland Shire fans have the perfect chance to witness the next generation of Matildas.
Sydney FC host Melbourne Victory at Jubilee Oval on November 25 in a double-header with the Sky Blues’ A-League side to follow the W-League match.
And De Vanna, Australia’s all-time leading international scorer, says the Kogarah clash gives local fans the opportunity to see some of the country’s best female players in action.
De Vanna spoke to the Leader from Matildas camp with the squad preparing for a pair of friendly matches against Chile.
The 34-year-old striker had five fellow Sky Blues join her in the Australia squad – Caitlin Foord, Princess Ibini-Isei, Alanna Kennedy, Chloe Logarzo and Amy Sayer.
“You get the mix of everything. The older, more experienced players like me but also the younger internationals and the inexperienced, future ones coming through,” she said.
“The rivalry with Victory isn’t as intense as the men. But they’ve definitely recruited very well. They’re hard to play against and will be very competitive.
“We’ve definitely got the squad that can go one better this season. It’s up to us now. We’ve got big personnel in the team that can drive us forward. Our international players are good characters. I think we’ll make the top four and from there you’ve just got to play your best football.
“From what I remember [Kogarah] is a nice stadium. It’s a bit intimate. I’ve played there with the Matildas before. Hopefully it’s a good crowd and we can go out there and put on a show.”
And with the women’s World Cup in France next year and the Olympics in Tokyo to follow in 2020, De Vanna said it was an exciting time for the Matildas.
De Vanna was nine caps away from Cheryl Salisbury’s all-time record of 151 appearances for the Matildas ahead of the Chile friendlies.
With her still fit and in form De Vanna is likely to break the record. She has her eyes on the 2019 World Cup and the 2020 Olympics. But whether she makes it to the 2023 World Cup – potentially on home soil – is still uncertain.
“Time is actually flying. This time last year I was thinking it was finished. Now in six months time I could potentially be participating in another World Cup,” she said.
“This time around we’ll be one of the favourites to win it. It’s a really exciting next six months to keep doing it and being prepared mentally and physically.
“I potentially could [get to 2023]. But I’m not looking that far ahead. I’ve always been a fair person and I want to end on my terms. I want people to remember me as one of the greatest, not that I went on too long.
“It’ll all come down to pretty much tournament by tournament. But even if I wasn’t playing I’m sure I’d have some sort of role off the pitch.”
The surge in popularity of women’s football has been greatly helped by the success of the Matildas. Australia were quarter-finalists at the last three World Cups including the 2015 tournament in Canada.
They then fell again at the quarter-final stage at the 2016 Rio Olympics, eliminated on penalties by hosts Brazil.
And De Vanna expects the popularity of the sport to continue to grow given the quality of the next crop of stars coming through.
“I never thought I’d see this. I’ve been around for a very long time now. The fact that I’m still here to witness it just shows how fast and quickly the game has grown,” she said.
“The last five years it has all come down to the game and the generation change. Women’s sport, you’re seeing it in other sports now as well. There are fantastic pathways that we never had when we started.
“It’s important for us that the grass roots level is just as good. We want to keep getting better and better. And to do that we need our youth programs to be up to scratch. And we need our best players of the next few years to really become big players, big personalities and make sure they leave a legacy with the next generation.”