Canberra United’s Ellie Brush discusses the progress of the Westfield W-League, the rise of women’s sport in Australia and the need to increase the talent pool of the nation’s top players.

Few are better judged to assess the progress of Australia’s premier domestic women’s competition. Canberra United’s Ellie Brush has been part of the W-League since season one in 2008.

“It is almost unrecognisable from that first season,” said the twice capped twice capped Matilda.

“The biggest change has been the quality on the pitch.”

For Brush, and many others, the introduction of the W-League after a four year hiatus following the closure of the old Women’s National Soccer League provided a pathway.

“When the W-League was introduced there was actually a clear way to break into the Matildas and we have seen just how important the competition has been for the Matildas.”

The W-League pathway would lead the midfielder abroad, with the Canberra born player plying her trade in the USA and Norway. Brush is clear on the role played by the W-League in providing her with the opportunity to play overseas.

“It certainly has helped to give Australian football credibility overseas and that is where my opportunities have come from.”

The opportunities abroad were relished, with the qualified physiotherapist getting a first hand look at the inner workings of the world’s leading football nation in the women’s game, during her time with Houston Dash.

“The fact over there that so many players are professional plays a big part in why the USA is so successful.

“For a long time the USA has been number one or two in the world and the pool of talent they can draw on is enormous and that comes from their professional league, the NWSL, those girls are full-time footballers and can do all the right things to be an elite athlete.

“I think a lot of it comes from the college system over there, it is really competitive and plays a big part in providing such a big talent pool.”

With the W-League yet to develop into a full-time professional league, Brush believes providing more opportunity for the nation’s elite players is critical if we are match it with the very best nations in the world.

“To go to the next level we need to increase the amount of professional footballers so more players are afforded the opportunity to put all their efforts into being the best they can be. For the Matildas contracted players they can do all the right things to be at their very best, but it is very difficult for the girls that aren’t contracted to get to the level so they can break into the Matildas.”

Not content at mastering just football and physiotherapy the W-League off-season will see Brush play AFL, for the inaugural season of the women’s AFL. Having been a long time fan of the sport it was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down and one that says further highlights the progress made by women’s sport.

“I have always loved AFL, Dad played but football was always my sport. You could see a pathway there [for football] and I had Matildas players as my role models and AFL just wasn’t something you thought about playing as a girl in Canberra. It is brilliant to see these sports heading towards professionalism and how I wish it was like that when I was younger. When I was kid I played cricket but I saw a bigger opportunity in football.

“Kids have all these choices and the word can be their oyster and I think why can’t a little girl have the dream of being a professional athlete. I don’t think it is a battle between the the sports and I think it is great that all the sports are increasing their professionalism and more girls are staying in sport.”