Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki spectacularly took out the Australian Open Women’s Finals, and rocketed straight to the top of the WTA international tennis table, six years after she last held the top spot.
And on Thursday night, in an emotional and incredibly well-deserved moment, Matildas superstar (and 2017 Women’s Health Sportswoman of the Year) 24-year-old striker Samantha Kerr, continued her dream run when she was named 2018 Young Australian of the Year.
As she stepped up to the podium to accept her award, Kerr said she was keen to inspire the next generation to chase their dreams, both on and off the sporting field. And most tellingly: “I just want to prove to people that I can be the best player in the world.” And at that moment, sitting in front of my TV in Sydney 250km away, I had absolutely no doubt she could do it.
As the old saying goes: You cannot be what you cannot see. And when Kerr accepted her award in Canberra, it capped off what has been a truly triumphant year (or two) for women in sport.
Last February, the whole of Australia was captivated by the historic launch of AFLW (with season two now only days away). The second season of the Women’s Big Bash League attracted huge cricket crowds. Super Netball is flying. And with the Commonwealth Games, the Winter Olympics and the AFC Asian Women’s Cup (at which Kerr will star) all due to kick off over the next few months, the world-class performances from female athletes are only set to continue.
When it comes to women in sport, there’s more buzz, more excitement (and more pathways to play) than there’s ever been before. And it matters for so many more reasons than just pure entertainment. These incredible athletes are the new breed of role models we need right now. And part of the major moment female empowerment is having across the world.
As AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLaughlin said at the inaugural AFLW season launch last year: “This moment in women’s football, this apparent overnight success, has in fact been 100 years in the making. It will be football like we’ve always known. There will be upsets, thrashings and thrillers. But it will also be very different. This group of players will create their own game.”
Slowly but surely, we’ve stopped talking about “beating the boys” and started focusing on what our female athletes bring to the table. Namely:
Passion. Athleticism. Professionalism. A burning desire to give back. And, most importantly of all, a willingness to inspire girls (and boys) around Australia to believe that anything is possible. And, if you ask me, that’s truly life-changing.