AS THE W-LEAGUE SEASON KICKS OFF, THREE SOCCER SUPERSTARS SWAP THEIR FOOTBALL SHORTS FOR FLOORLENGTH GOWNS
This isn’t an average day in the office for Stephanie Catley, Caitlin Foord and Ellie Carpenter. The three Westfield Matildas players are more comfortable on a soccer field than in front of a camera, but at the Stellar fashion shoot, you wouldn’t know it. Catley, 22, sits in front of a mirror as a make-up artist retouches her face; Foord, 21, stretches out a leg so the stylist can smooth cream into her skin; and Carpenter, 16, lifts her chin for the camera, as directed by the photographer. For footballers, they make convincing models.
Catley, who made her senior debut at the age of 15, remembers her first ever photo shoot. “All I wanted to do was be in shorts and a T-shirt,” says the
Melbourne City FC player. “I remember thinking, ‘I will never be nervous for a soccer game again.’ Soccer is so much more natural to me.”
Catley started playing in the front yard with her brother and the boys on the street when she was just five years old. Now, the defender, who was one of the first women to be on the cover of a FIFA video game, represents Australia on our national team and also plays for the Orlando Pride in the US. Since starting out, she has seen more support for women in sport develop. “It’s definitely something that hasn’t been around, so it’s about time,” she says. “We train just as hard and just as much [as the men], so to get recognition and support from Australians has been amazing for our national team and great for the league as well.”
That support will hopefully translate to better pay and conditions for the players. This season, Football Federation Australia is expected to bring in a new base standard to increase the minimum-pay rate. Sydney FC right-winger Foord is happy to see the change. “In past years there have been some girls on contracts who were probably losing more money than gaining [it],” she says. “Hopefully this does help, so people don’t have to have a second job.”
Unlike some of her fellow players who do supplement soccer careers with second jobs, Foord plays full-time. In 2011, at the age of 16, she was the youngest ever Australian to play at a World Cup. This year she played for the Matildas at the Rio Olympics. “Coming off the Olympics, this W-league is the biggest one yet; it’s exciting,” she says.
Just as excited for this season is Western Sydney Wanderers player Carpenter. In March, the teenager made her debut for the Matildas and became the first player – male or female – born in the 21st century to represent the Australian senior national team.
“I think a fair amount of people underestimated me because of how young I am, but you’ve just got to prove them wrong,” says Carpenter.
And she’s doing just that, waking up at 4am to train with the team before sitting down to study for six hours at high school. Carpenter credits her Matildas teammates, including Catley and Foord, for paving the way for the next generation of female footballers.
“I’m really grateful to the older girls for doing everything they have and helping us young ones out,” she says. The Westfield W-league season runs until February 2017; w-league.com.au.