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Sport / Interview
As our Westfield Matildas prepare their return to Newcastle to take on Chile, we sit down for a chat with Matildas' playmaker and Newcastle Jets captain Emily van Egmond.
The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup is fast approaching, and in preparation for it, the Australian women’s national football team will be heading back to Newcastle to take on Chile.
After the excitement of taking on Brazil in Newcastle last year, and with an exciting display against world number 3 England that saw the Westfield Matildas snatch a late draw, the current world number 6 team are a serious powerhouse.
As the Matildas prepare to return to McDonald Jones Stadium, we sit down with midfielder Emily van Egmond to chat about the importance of the upcoming games, the state of women’s football, and her pre-game rituals.
What’s the key focus heading into the two matches against Chile this November?
Every single international game is preparation for France. It’s not usual that we’ll play a South American team, so the fact that we’ve got Chile coming out to Australia is awesome. I know the girls will be extremely excited to face a team that poses a completely different challenge from other teams that we’ve faced this year.
How important are the two games?
They’re extremely important. It’s less than a year now until the World Cup, so every piece of preparation we can have is very beneficial for us going into that tournament. You don’t want to go in to make up the numbers, you want to go to win, and that’s our number one priority. I think the fact that we’ve got home games as well is definitely a benefit, we’ll be looking to come out and show Australia what we can do.
What’s the feeling like? What does it mean to represent Australia?
It’s a huge honour, the fact we get to play in front of friends and family, and supporters in Australia is awesome, and I know the girls really value the home games. It’s one of the things that we spoke about as a playing group, to try to get more home games to show Australia what we’re all about and give them an insight into the Westfield Matildas.
We’ve been fortunate enough the last couple of years to do so, and I think the vibe around the team is always positive. We’re going into an exciting time now with a World Cup coming up, so I think the girls are looking forward to working as hard as they can towards France.
How excited are you by the state of women’s football?
Extremely excited, you’re seeing participant numbers in women’s football growing across Australia, and that’s awesome to see. Little girls are aspiring to be a Westfield Matilda, and you can’t ask for more than that.
Hopefully, we can keep doing what we’re doing, and be successful on the international stage, and really try to be consistent with that success.
How do we continue to produce world class footballers?
The Young Matildas program that has become full-time in Sydney is a massive step in the right direction. Those girls are in a full-time training environment down there, training and playing with and against the best girls in the country of their age. That’s something that has never happened before, so the fact we’ve got that is massive for women’s football in Australia.
The fact that the current Westfield Matildas are overseas plying their trade in some of the best leagues in the world is also what you want to contribute to the success of the national team. You’ve seen with the likes of Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley, of this generation of the Matildas, it’s definitely been paying off.
How do you see the state of female football participation at the grassroots level?
It’s a really positive thing. The last time we met as a team I think they were saying we have the best participation we’ve ever had in the women’s game. That’s awesome here, and it sounds like at the grassroots level they’re doing everything, the best they can, and helping to continue growing the game.
I think you saw that with AFL coming in and netball as well, they’re also doing extremely well in their sporting codes. It’s us as well, trying to keep up with those sports and I think we’re doing a really good job at the moment.
You’ve helped take female sport in Australia to new heights. How does it feel knowing you’ve inspired new generations?
There’s no better feeling, and I think it’s a credit to the FFA to be able to have home games to allow us to showcase what we can do. To have young female footballers of Australia come out and watch the Westfield Matildas and aspire to be that one day, that helps grow the game.
It’s an incredible time for women’s sport. What would you consider the biggest milestone of the last twelve months?
I think the AFL and the netball continuing to grow is terrific for women’s sport in Australia, obviously cricket paved the way. The rugby league and union are also doing well. At the moment, women’s sport in Australia is very talked about, and I think it’s awesome to see that they’re getting the support and the resources they deserve. It’s awesome for Australian sport in general.
What would your advice be to young aspiring female footballers?
To keep chasing their dreams, have fun and enjoy it. You play the game because you love it, and it’s as simple as that.
What sort of music do you and the team listen to before a match?
A variety of different music. Lydia Williams is our DJ, so whatever she has on her playlist. We’ve got some Calvin Harris, Justin Bieber, Khalid, just to name a few.
Any other pre-game rituals that you guys have?
As individuals there might be some, but as a team not so much. There’s a good vibe in the change room at the moment among the girls, and that’s the best thing you could hope for within a team.
Favourite memory for the Matildas?
There’s so many. Probably the 2011 World Cup for me, personally, it was awesome and such a great experience. Qualifying for the 2016 Olympics, that was also very special.
Which female athlete did you admire growing up?
That’s a hard one. I was lucky enough to grow up in Newcastle with the likes of Cheryl Salisbury, captain of the Matildas, so I’ll give Chez a shoutout.
Which member of the Matildas is the most fun to hang out with?
Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord for sure. They’re two of my close buddies, they’ve got a really good sense of humour.
If you could pick one other female athlete outside of football to give it a crack, who?
There’s so many. I have no idea, to be honest. You’ve got me. Serena Williams would be awesome, she’s probably good at everything.
Grab your tickets to see the Matildas in action at McDonald Jones Stadium on Tuesday 13 November at Ticketmaster.com.au