40th anniversary of Matildas first 'A' international played at Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda celebrated

Pioneer: Julie Dolan in action for Australia against New Zealand at Seymour Shaw Park in October, 1979. Picture: Julian Kevin Zakaras/Fairfax Media

Pioneer: Julie Dolan in action for Australia against New Zealand at Seymour Shaw Park in October, 1979. Picture: Julian Kevin Zakaras/Fairfax Media

Before the first ever women's 'A' international football match, Australia captain Julie Dolan made fliers and dropped them around the shire in an attempt to help attract a crowd.

How times have changed.

Football Federation Australia honoured the pioneers of Australian women's football by celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first 'A' international football match on Saturday.

It was on October 6, 1979 that Australia played New Zealand in their first full international match at Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda. The game finished 2-2.

Members of that first team gathered with the current Matildas squad at Seymour Shaw to remember the occasion.

Dolan, who was bestowed the honour of cap number one for the Matildas, said the team had felt an enormous sense of responsibility walking out for that first game 40 years ago.

"Women's football was something most people hadn't heard of," she said.

"I remember making fliers myself and dropping them off in the local area because I lived near Seymour Shaw Park, so we just wanted to get supporters there to watch us.

"I love seeing where the game has gone and the progress it has made. To see these girls on the world stage, to see a strong Westfield W-League, that's everything we dreamed of when we were playing.

"It gives you an enormous sense of pride because you feel like you have been part of establishing a legacy for women's football."

FFA chairman Chris Nikou said it was time to recognise the contribution Australia's first female national team representatives had made to football over many years.

"These athletes started a movement, not just a team, which has now become one of the most powerful, popular and recognisable in Australia," he said.

"Many of these women worked full time, while playing for the national team and for many years, this continued to be the case.

"There have been 204 Matildas represent our country in 'A' internationals over the past 40 years and we celebrate each of them and thank them for their contribution to our sport.

"Later this month Cheryl Salisbury will become the first female footballer to be inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, which rightly recognises the sacrifices and efforts of our female footballers over this time.

"Today many of our Westfield Matildas are full time professional footballers, many playing around the world and when they represent their national team today on home soil, it is in front of big crowds.

"We recognise there is still work to do to ensure our female athletes have more opportunities on and off the park from the grassroots up to our national teams but today we look back and celebrate the immense strides made."

Elise Kellond-Knight, who has been capped 109 times for the Matildas, said it was an honour to share the occasion with the founding members of the women's national team.

"Today presents a great opportunity to express some gratitude on behalf of the team. I think we all make sacrifices as Matildas, but I think what they sacrificed was to the extreme extent," she said.

"We've pushed the game to its limits, we've created a professional environment, we're now full time professional athletes, we're able to fill stadiums with tens of thousands of people, we're accessible to fans now, we've got role models that are renowned around the world like Sam Kerr and we're visible on TV.

"And none of this would have been possible without the first generation of 1979 Matildas. On behalf of the current team, I want to say thank you."

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