“It’s a funny time to retire, to be honest.”

They are the words of Emma Checker who is hanging up the boots at the end of Melbourne Victory’s finals series campaign.

At age 28, Checker decided in March that she would bring an end to 13-year long playing career, that has taken her around Australia – with the likes of Adelaide United, Canberra United and Melbourne City – and to South Korea, France, Iceland and Sweden, before finishing at Victory, the club she returned to at the start of the 2023-24 season.

It was a decision not many people saw coming. In fact, the seven-time Matilda was in the frame for a national team call-up in the run in to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup only a year ago.

But she still felt the time was right.

Now, only days away from Victory’s A-League Women Elimination Final against Central Coast Mariners, Checker sits down with the PFA to discuss her career, the evolution of women’s football in Australia and why she chose to retire.

Part two of the Q&A will be released next week.

Watch the full feature below

How do you reflect on your final season – off the back of such an incredible period in women’s football in Australia?

“I think for so long, I’d hope that we reach a point of being where we are now and having a full home and away and I genuinely believe we’re on track to achieving more in that sense.

“So it’s funny because it’s what I’ve wanted to get to do for so long and now walking away once we get there is a weird feeling and especially off the back of the World Cup, given only six to 12 months prior to the World Cup, I was still in the extended squad.

“There’s part of me that thinks ‘God it’s a rapid decline’, but at the same time, I think I’ve had a deep knowing for the last six months, just with the changes that I’ve experienced in life off the field that this is the time.

“It’s also given me a great chance to reflect on what I have done in the 13 years in the league and how far the league has come in that time. I think I’m someone that gets caught up sometimes in wishing that we were further along, but when you look back to 13 years ago, it’s a pretty incredible journey that the league has been on.

“I do hope that the success off the back of the World Cup continues to play a role in the growth of the league because there’s so much that this league can do and I still think that we’re not we’re not fully maximising what we can get out of it. But I do look back and think that it’s been an incredible journey, and I’m proud to have been part of where the league has got to today.”

How has the new Home of the Matildas been as a new training venue and home ground?

“I think it’s been really important for us. It’s the first piece of a puzzle, in my opinion, of achieving success, is having facilities that match what you’re trying to achieve.

“It’s become a true home base. Early days, it took us a while to feel that way and you always wish you were playing at AAMI Park, just given the magnitude of playing there, but I think as the season has gone on, the fact that we play where we train, and we’ve got a gym overlooking the main pitch.

“You’re training everyday looking at that pitch and you’re in the change room that you use on game-day. It really has become a home base for us and it’s a special facility.

“It’s what it got built for and now the fact that it’s used as a Victory home base, it just goes to show why female built facilities are so important and you see every weekend young girls running around on those pitches and experiencing what it’s like to be at a facility like that and it’s exposure like that, that creates the desire for young girls to become professional players.”

Where to next for the A-League Women?

“It’s hard because I think what people forget is that financially expanding a league is tough and I think it’s all well and good to say we just have to go full time and I believe that’s what we have to end up.

“But achieving that does take resourcing and I hope that we’re positioned in a place moving forward that we can achieve that because I don’t think that we can stop pushing for more until we do get there.

“It’s a hard place to get to but at the moment, and I’m one of these people, we’ve still got plenty of girls working full-time, juggling multiple parts of life and I don’t believe that it is a sustainable part of the game to have it in that place.

“I think we will continue to attract players from overseas, but if we can make it a full-time season, and the value of being here then goes up. So I think there’s always a risk and reward with making big decisions like that.

“I think in terms of evolving the league to being the best it possibly can be, that has to be the target.”

How did you specifically arrive at the decision to call time on your career?

“It’s hard to pinpoint when I realised to be honest. I’d had it in the back of my mind after last season but I knew I wasn’t done.

“It’s funny because this has been one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve ever had. So, even telling Jeff (Hopkins) it was such a weird feeling because I love playing for him. I love being at Victory and it really has rediscovered a love for the game that I’d felt like I’d lost to some extent.  Walking away when I finally regained that, is a strange time.

“But multiple factors that played into it. When I got a job opportunity that was really difficult to turn down, and it was one that put me on the path for what I wanted away from football, and when I applied my promise to myself was actually that if I got it, I knew that was a sign that I was setting myself up for life away from football.

“Last year, I got married as well. I went from pre-season, being married to basically just going on to full time work, back to season and I feel still feel like I haven’t really fully enjoyed it.

“I know that’s the life of a lot of footballers, but for me, it’s not a sacrifice that I’m willing to give anymore. For the first four years of my relationship I was away for at least six months in another another country and a lot of that was during COVID when we couldn’t see each other at all.

“For me the sacrifice of giving away time at home and family time has come at a cost and I’ve been willing to pay that cost for my whole career but now my priorities have changed and I feel like my priority needs to be there.”


When you told yourself ‘if you’ve got that job, you’re going to retire’ because it’s easy to say that, but then when you actually get the news that you got the job. What was your emotions in that particular moment? Because you would have been getting the job then you also know what that means.

“I probably thought I’m not actually going to retire. It was probably my first thought to be honest.

“When I got the job, it was too early in the season to feel like I was ready to actually commit to retirement. But even even in those conversations, I still had a deep knowing and I think the last step was more just accepting it within myself.

“Football’s a massive part of my identity and I think as much as we all say, we try not to get too attached to that. It’s hard not to… It’s all you’ve ever been known for. So I think for me, letting go of that and knowing that was going to change was really hard.”

How would you like to finish your career?

“All I want is a trophy. There’s no better way to answer that.

“I think for me, that would be just the absolute high to finish on and I genuinely believe we have a squad that can do it.


“A personal goal of mine this year was to reach 150 games and I’m one game off that so hopefully that comes about too!”

Imagine holding the trophy – how would it feel having it in your hands?

“When I think about it almost like brings tears to my eyes.

“I don’t want anything more than that right now and to share it with a group of girls like what we have would just be one of the greatest memories from football that I would hold with me forever.”

Is it nice to finish up your career at Victory?

“Absolutely. It’s funny how it’s so quickly felt like home again and I think naturally no matter where you are, you find a home in it because when you’re giving everything to something that’s often what happens.

“For me it is really special. Victory was the only reason I moved to Melbourne and I’ve been here basically ever since. The core of the club and what they stand for has remained the same and that for me says a lot about the club, and they do what they can for the women’s program and Jeff is so highly regarded for so many reasons.

“To share the field with him from last season is also something that I’ll hold on to me for a long time because he tried to get me across the line a number of years ago and I’m just grateful he still wanted me… He was always one of the great guys to deal with. He’s awesome.”

What are your highlights?

“It’s always hard to answer this because so many things come to mind. But I don’t think anyone can go past debuting for the national team.

“My national team debut is something that I’ll forever hold close to me and obviously I wish I had had more games but at the same time I was fortunate enough to be in and out of camps and traveling with the team for over 10 years and that is something that’s been a massive part of my life.

“When I reflect it actually becomes more special because I was so young at the time that I didn’t fully appreciate the magnitude of what it meant. So for me that was huge.

“Another couple include Championships. First one at Victory. That was huge. My first season when I came across was just incredible. It was the first time I felt like I had achieved such a massive team success and it showed me why I’m here and why I play and for me that continued to drive me throughout the rest of my career and obviously the perfect season we had with (Melbourne) City was massive. To go undefeated. Premiers and Champions was just huge.

“I think playing in that team that season taught me a lot. We had such an experienced team. From memory, every starting player played in a national team and what I learned as a player and as a person that year really set me up for the last few years of my career.”