In a week of seismic sport, the Matildas made the earth move the most

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In a week of seismic sport, the Matildas made the earth move the most

The old tag-line from Roy and HG, “when too much sport is barely enough,” had resonance at the time. In recent years, however, while there might have been more sport than ever before broadcast, it was rare that huge chunks of the Australian tribe would gather round just the one sporting event, agog with wonder.

Suddenly, however, early this week it was – ah sing it, Bill Lawry – all happening! At once.

At exactly the same time that the Matildas were fighting for their lives against the Canadians in Melbourne, the Australian cricket team was heading into the final day of the Ashes at the Oval, seemingly in good shape to pull off an historic victory and take the series 3-1. To the north in Japan, the Dolphins had just blitzed the World Swimming Championships, and giving the Americans fair notice that they will be coming for them at the Paris Olympics.

All that, and then Buddy – maybe the only AFL player in the country for whom a first name is the only thing required to identify him? – announced his immediate retirement.

They were four major sporting events, all coming at once, for which oceans of ink were spilt covering the event, the aftermath, the significance. We will go through them, but see if you can pick which one is of genuine seismic significance, with after-effects that will go for years.

Captain Sam Kerr, flanked by teammates Emily Van Egmond (left)  and Caitlin Foord celebrates the Matildas 4-0 win against Canada on Monday.

Captain Sam Kerr, flanked by teammates Emily Van Egmond (left) and Caitlin Foord celebrates the Matildas 4-0 win against Canada on Monday.Credit: AP

Let’s start with the Matildas. Well, who saw that coming?

After first shading Ireland in Sydney and then being dusted by Nigeria in Brisbane in the opening rounds of the FIFA World Cup, the expectation was that our women would struggle against the Olympic gold medallists, Canada in Melbourne. Instead – and even sans Kerr – they were electric from the first.

Four goals? Yes, but bar a stray heel it would have been five! No-one knows what came over them, only that the transformation was nothing less than extraordinary. With every touch, the Matildas threatened. The Canadians were valiant but on the night, simply outclassed. To this point, most of Australia knew the Matildas as “Sam Kerr and the others”. Now, there was realisation that it was a side replete with stars, including Hayley Raso, Steph Catley and Mary Fowler.


As to the Ashes, in the end our blokes fell a gutting 49 runs short, finishing an enthralling series 2-2, but retaining the urn. It was not the glorious ending hoped for, but still a very strong effort.

The Australians celebrate retaining the Ashes.

The Australians celebrate retaining the Ashes.Credit: Getty

Meantime, the retirement of Buddy, after goals numbering 1066 and all that?

Of course that retirement was always coming for the 36-year-old, but that was expected at the end of the season. This sudden announcement was out of a clear blue sky, and the public reaction bordered on grief – which was a testament to the impact he has made.

As it happens, this correspondent was, as discussed, the worst example of getting Franklin wrong. I thought his initial 10-year, $9 million deal was insanity and said so with some vigour, on a loop! But, equally as discussed, I got it badly wrong. True, the Swans didn’t win a pennant in his decade with them, but a sports media executive friend made an interesting point: “Ask the readers who aren’t Swans fans to name one other current Swans player.”


Can you? There are plenty of other good players but the truth is that Buddy Franklin transcended the Swans, and retires as the face of the franchise. He made the turnstiles swing in Sydney and around the country like no other player and carried himself well, if a little remotely, off the field.

As to the Dolphins in Japan, it wasn’t just that they nailed five world records which was astonishing. It was the 13 gold medals, and the fact that for only the second time since the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, the USA – our traditional rivals in the pool – were beaten by Australia.

It sets our mob up well for Paris, with at least some chance we can ... smash them like guitars.

We’ll see.

So, with all that, which one is seismic?

I’ll go with The Obvious for $100, please, Tony?

It was the win by the Matildas, propelling them into the Round of 16. If they had lost, it would have been a major disappointment, a complete fizzer after months of build-up. But the fact they won – with prospects of going even further, such is their form – makes it a breakthrough for women’s team sport like Australia has never seen.

As little as five years ago it was close to inconceivable that a women’s team could play four successive matches, and have something nudging 300,000 spectators at the grounds, and millions watching around the world, while being the talking point of the country. But here it is, and it is grand. For win, lose or draw from here, the game has changed.

While right now the Matildas are agitating for pay parity with the Socceroos, don’t be surprised if they quickly back off. Why?


Tony, I’ll take another $100 in the Even More Obvious.

If the idea of pay parity with males is enshrined in an agreement, my reckoning is that a year or two from now, it ain’t the women who will benefit from it, but the men!

Right now, if you controlled millions of dollars of sports sponsorship and had to put it on the Socceroos or the Matildas for coming years, which one would you choose? Which one has not only captured the imagination of the country, but looks like a good chance to do so for years to come?

That would be the Matildas. Go you good things!


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