Matildas inspire Ƶ girls’ soccer teams at State Finals

7 September 2023

Two girls’ soccer teams from Ƶ Grammar School channeled their inner Matildas at last week’s School Sport Victoria (SSV) State Finals in Melbourne.

After an amazing run through the Sandhurst competition in Bendigo and the Loddon Mallee tournament in Swan Hill – including some hair-raising penalty shootouts – both the Senior School Intermediate Girls and Junior School Girls teams were delighted to qualify for the States.

Staged at the Darebin International Sports Centre on 29 August, the Intermediate Girls were undefeated on the day, with an extraordinary 9-0 win against Mary MacKillop College Leongatha, followed by a nil-all draw against specialist sports school Maribyrnong College.

In their final game against Rowville Secondary College, the girls persevered through a handful of injuries and fatigue, taking the win thanks to an impressive free kick goal from outside the box.

While the team was unlucky to miss out on the grand final based on a goal difference of two in the final tally, they were extremely proud of their efforts to place third in the state, particularly given the high standard of competition.

Ƶ Year 12 student and team coach Emily Russell said the girls were greatly inspired by the efforts of the Matildas and even implemented some of the tactics they had picked up on while watching the recent World Cup.

“The growing support and progression of women’s soccer is such a relief for young female players like our Intermediate team, offering inspiring role models for the girls to look up to, and encouraging them to strive to improve and reach goals that once seemed unachievable,” Miss Russell said.

“Positive talk was all that was heard before and after each game, and I believe supporting each other and maintaining an optimistic atmosphere helped a great deal in developing resilience during each game,” she added.

Following the success of the Intermediate team, the Junior School Girls team then took to the pitch on 30 August, still ecstatic from their qualifying performance at the Regional Final in Swan Hill, where they won both the semi-final and grand final in penalty shootouts.

On the day in Melbourne, the girls fought valiantly against the tough competition, with one draw and two losses ultimately seeing them place eighth in the state.

Coach and Junior School teacher Mr Mark Di Fede said it was a tremendous effort for the girls to get to the last eight teams in Victoria, particularly given only three members of the team had ever played soccer before.

“The girls who did not play picked up the rules really quickly and developed enormous improvement in their skills over the past few tournaments. The girls were also very supportive and encouraging of each other,” Mr Di Fede said.

Training was a real family affair, with parents coordinating and coaching several Sunday afternoon training sessions, one of which involved the students taking on their parents in a practice match.

The Matildas’ epic run at the World Cup also generated a lot of excitement and inspiration among the Junior School Girls, with the team members proudly donning their green and gold Matildas jerseys for Ƶ Grammar’s Book Week celebrations.