Ellie Carpenter made history on Sunday – and not for the first time in her professional career.

At just 20 years of age, Carpenter has already amassed a catalogue of achievements during her rise to prominence as the Matildas’ preeminent right-back.

The latest – becoming the first Australian female to win the UEFA Women’s Champions League – is arguably her most impressive.

As the first Australian in 13 years to win a Champions League medal, Carpenter’s name will now be uttered in the same breath as Zeljko Kalac (AC Milan, 2007), Harry Kewell (Liverpool, 2005) and Craig Johnston (Liverpool, 1984), as Australian winners of Europe’s most prestigious club competition. 

Before Sunday, Carpenter had already set other records in her career. She debuted for the Matildas at the age of 15, becoming Australia’s first international soccer player – male or female – to be born in the 21st century. She also became the youngest Australian Olympian at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the youngest ever player to appear in a National Women’s Soccer League and the youngest scorer in NWSL history.

Now she’s the youngest Australian Champions League winner.

While Carpenter undoubtedly possesses significant individual talent, her meteoritic rise to European powerhouse Olympique Lyonnais would not have been possible without the opportunity to develop in the W-League, here in Australia.

“Winning this Champions League with this club was a dream come true,” Carpenter told pfa.net.au following Lyon’s 3-1 win over Wolfsburg on Sunday.

“The experiences I have had over my first two months here have been memorable. I am looking forward to the next chapter with this club and the new season starting this weekend.”

But before Carpenter’s move to the heights of European football, it all started in the W-League – first with Western Sydney Wanderers – which was critical to her development as a teenager.

“In 2015 my first season in the W-League with the Wanderers gave me playing opportunities at a high-level, week in, week out, developing my game and experiencing what it is like to play in a competitive league,” Carpenter said.

“This helped my growth immensely and is what had me identified into the national team. My further five years after in the W-League were very enjoyable with both Canberra United and Melbourne City. 

“Each year I felt myself improving as a player as I got to express myself and surround myself with quality players and train with them every day in a professional environment. The W-League is where my career began, and I couldn’t be more thankful for everything each of my clubs have contributed and shaped me into the player that I am today.

“I think the W-league is such an important league for the young generation coming through the system. It allows the players to experience an environment that prepares you for your next step and to build on yourself as a player.”

Crucial to Carpenter’s development was the presence of high-quality international talent within the W-League. 

“To play competitive games each week and to come up against the best players in the league and also quality international signings was so important, as well for the depth of our national team squads and to keep the growth of women’s football strong.

“I think the experience of the international players joining the teams in the W-League bring their presence and advice to the team. 

“I remember my first year with the Wanderers I was 15 years old and playing alongside [Canadian International] Carmelina Moscato, I learnt so much off Carm in the short amount of time. Knowledge of the game, tactical positioning. All aspects. This is such a boost for the young generation and players in the W-League.”

PFA Co-Chief Executive Kathryn Gill said Carpenter’s latest achievement demonstrates how the W-League has helped propel Australian professional footballers to the pinnacle of world football.

“On behalf of our 700-strong membership, we congratulate Ellie on a remarkable achievement as the first Australian female to win the Champions League,” Gill told pfa.net.au.

“At just 20, Ellie has already scaled the heights of the professional game, representing the Matildas at the World Cup last year and having taking part in Lyon’s Champions League-winning campaign.

“While this latest achievement speaks to Ellie’s exceptional ability as an international footballer, it also demonstrates the value of the W-League in developing and catapulting talented players to some of the biggest football institutions in world football.”