Australia have gone through a significant period of regeneration in recent years. Their team at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ – buoyed by several new talented teenagers - was the second youngest of all 16 participating nations.
Since then the side has witnessed several more new arrivals, but one of the few staples in the playing group over an extended period of time has been captain Kate Gill. Of the squad that featured in the recent AFC Women’s Asian Cup, only fellow forward and good friend Lisa De Vanna is older, and even then only by a matter of weeks.
Gill has achieved much in her career including a Women’s World Cup appearance, an AFC Asian Women’s Cup winners’ medal and, in 2010, she was crowned Asia’s best female player. It is an impressive resume but perhaps her crowning glory came earlier this year far from home in Ho Chi Minh City against Women’s Asian Cup outsiders Jordan. A modest crowd were on hand to witness a slice of history as the tall No9 became her nation’s greatest male or female international goalscorer.
Long journey to the top
Suitably it was a textbook header that saw Gill overcome the long-standing mark set by former team-mate Cheryl Salisbury as Australia’s top goalgetter. It has certainly a long road traversed by Gill since she started playing, aged just four. Now 29, Gill was well into her teens before she was even aware of the Australian women’s national team existence.
Her first captain at club level was Salisbury with both, somewhat remarkably, hailing from the same suburb in the same city. Newcastle, two hours north of Sydney, was once known as the cradle of Australian football due to its production line of talent, and its impact on women’s football has been equally significant. Former Matildas midfielder Jo Peters, who at one stage was the nation’s second most capped player, also spent most of career in Newcastle.
Now a decade and a half after first meeting Salisbury, Gill’s international record stands at 40 goals in 83 internationals, and the striker recognises the significance of the achievement. “It’s been a privilege considering those that have gone before me,” tells FIFA.com. “It is certainly something that I’m proud of.”
For all career achievements Gill, like most female footballers, leads a modest lifestyle one far removed from her male counterparts. With an enormous gap between W-League seasons, and following a campaign hit by injury and illness, Gill elected to consolidate in her other home town, Perth.
Options for high-level women’s football are limited between national league seasons, and there are bills to be paid. “I have to find clubs to train with and I am fortunate to train with the Perth Glory youth men teams, but finding game time is relatively hard,” Gill says as she takes a hasty trip between a lunch-break training session and her job with state football organisation Football West.
Australia’s impressive campaign at the 2007 Women’s World Cup was considered a breakthrough achievement as the Matildas reached the quarter-finals, a feat they repeated at Germany 2011. The challenge now is to break new ground in Canada.
Gill though sees little difference in the mental approach of the side during her decade-long national team career. “I don’t think the expectations have changed,” says Gill of the Matildas’ mentality. “We have always wanted to be winners. The personnel has obviously changed. We lost some hugely experienced players but gained some great young players.
“We would definitely like to progress beyond that quarter-final stage where we always seem to get stuck. The (Canada 2015) draw could be important but, in saying that, I think we feel comfortable no matter who we draw.
“We have had some mixed results in the past years, and have beaten some big teams. The challenge now is to be more consistent. We need to be performing for 90 minutes. We sometimes play well for 30 and then drop off for 15.”
One challenge still remains unconquered on Gill’s football bucket list; personal success at the Women’s World Cup. Surprisingly, she played just once at China 2007 and a torn knee ligament cruelled her hopes four years later. “Me and major tournaments don’t seem to go well together,” says Gill with a hint of understatement. With a quite hunger and determination to succeed, Canada 2015 may just be the turning point for the Aussie skipper.