A hundred-year overnight success: the stories of women’s football in Australia

By Lee McGowan

In a piece of not quite though still relatively shameless self-promotion, I write to highlight a new book, Never Say Die: the Hundred-Year Overnight Success of Australian Women’s Football and the living archive research project it has emerged from. They are not the first works on Australian women’s football – See A Beautiful Game by Jean Williams, Half the Race by Marion Stell (1991) and the chapter featured in A History of Australian Football by Roy Hay and Bill Murray (2014) – but they are shaping up to be among, if not Australia’s most comprehensive. Built on leads-chased, a sweep of interviews and many hours spent in libraries and dusty or, worse, moldy archives, the works as yet amount to no more than well-informed conversation starters, sparks, hopefully, to incite a broader conversation and provide and platform for and to encourage those who have yet to do so to share their stories.

The book collates academic work and surveys completed to date, captures connected conversations, and links disparate sections of what has until now been a fragmented narrative. The on-going research, which includes the developing digital history with the ball at HER feet, aspires to and is working toward documenting and or at creating a more detailed national picture. For now, one geographical region offers more than enough to be working on.

The book’s co-author, writer and researcher Dr Fiona Crawford, is a former liaison officer for the Matildas and the W-League, her expertise contributes to the book’s broad overview of a century of football and sharpens the depth of detail through interviews with those involved in key aspects, issues and concerns in the contemporary game.

The title, Never Say Die, is taken from the motto of the Matildas, the Australian national women’s football team, who celebrated their 40th Anniversary this month. Alongside this landmark, the professional league turns 12, the base wage for women and men for hours worked is technically the same, and Football Federation Australia, the sports’ national governing body and the Australian Government are financially backing a promising bid to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup – #GetOnside. It would appear things couldn’t get any better, however, not because there always is one, rather the obstacles, challenges and discrimination remain.

Never Say Die examines these issues (social, gender, economic), the perennial themes (access, injury, politics, hardships, strength, and courage), and, of course, the football. It explores the game’s history, captures its development, and focuses on its achievements, the triumphs—from the spectacular to the taken for granted. 

Alongside the book, with the ball at HER feet, expands our knowledge of who played, served and supported the game they love, those who always gave and give back more than they could ever take, and who seek and have sought to ensure its betterment for their successors. They share the story of the women who have made and make football happen.

If you would like to discuss the book, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, Thank you, Lee.

Email: lee.mcgowan@qut.edu.au

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