From the age of 4, I only ever wanted to be one thing, a professional footballer.

Ian Wright, Thiery Henry, Mark Viduka were my heroes. Everton was my team and I was completely convinced that I was going to be a Toffee.

I didn’t know any different. My junior years and early teens were spent competing with boys. It didn’t phase me that I was always the only girl in the team. I knew of no female players, there were no female pathways and Banjo Patterson’s poetic license was my only link to a Matilada.

I could not have imagined that those years would start me off on a fantastic football journey, a journey that would take me to all parts of the world, allowing me to experience and appreciate the culture of football through a global lens. Ultimately, it would afford me the greatest privilege, being part of the legacy built by the Matildas.

Like those who came before me, my journey is in stark contrast to what lies ahead for today’s aspiring young female footballers. The dream that I had is in many ways now a reality. A four year old girl today can grow up and play professionally for Barcelona, Perth Glory, Manchester City or even Everton.

I don’t think I would be out of turn in saying that the feeling is somewhat bitter sweet. If only I had begun my career knowing what the current generation has, would my passion and love for the game be greater? Would I have had a longer career, would I have been a better player? The questions are endless, the answers moot.

What I do know, is that today I could not be prouder, as that legacy grows stronger and the aspirations of young female footballers burns brighter. The W-League always held such promise for the players and now that promise is on its way to being realised. Gone are the days of paying to play, changing on buses and being pushed aside to make way for the men. A collective bargaining agreement for the W-League is the foundation of a new era, one that recognises women’s football as an integral part of the football ecosystem and the key to unlocking the female face of cultural restructure and turbo charging the prosperity of sport.

Young girls now have visible female role models. Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley and Alex Chidiac will become household names. Pioneers like Julie Dolan, Julie Murry, Dianne Alagich and Cheryl Salisbury will be immortalised as the trail blazes that charted the course for change.

Women’s football now has a future, the vision has been constructed, the alliances built and the support by the players past and present stronger than even before.