PFA Player Relations Executive Kathryn Gill on why Australian football needs to #BeBoldForChange and propel the women’s game to where it can be.

By KATHRYN GILL, Proud Matilda & PFA Player Relations Executive

Standing in the tunnel waiting, your eyes focus on what lies ahead on the pitch. Little matters except the next 90 minutes. Your whole life has led you to this moment. While your friends went to parties you went home to prepare for the match. While other parents went home after work, your’s ferried you from training sessions, to the physio or to the gym, often late into the night – nobody makes it alone. This is what it was all for, this is the pinnacle of your sport – The FIFA World Cup.

When the whistle blows you face a choice. You can retreat into yourself wilt and wait for those around you take responsibility or you can be bold, be brave. The greats are always the ones that choose the latter. They opt to receive the ball where others are terrified by the prospect of a mistake. They have the mindset needed to see the killer pass while others are prone to panic, desperate to shift responsibility.

Today’s International Women’s Day appeals for the same bravery that defines sports very best, a willingness to be bold in pursuit of a mission. #BeBoldForChange, the campaign theme for 2017, calls on the masses or individuals to help forge a better working world – a more gender inclusive world.

In the past fortnight Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), the association for Australia’s professional footballers, released its Grassroots to Greatness Roadmap for Women’s Football the players’ vision for a modern workplace. Aimed at transforming the W-League into among the best leagues in the world, and in the process powering the Matildas to World Cup and Olympic glory, the Roadmap outlines the path forward in establishing a genuine professional pathway for women.

The goals are ambitious. Winning a World Cup and an Olympic Gold Medal may seem near impossible to some. But this is realistic. You better believe it. However, it will not happen by itself. Our sport has a choices to make. What we decide will reflect who we are and who we want to be. Does international success matter to us? Does the women’s game matter? How big is our ambition? Are we prepared to #BeBoldForChange for our game?

These are but few of the choices Australian football is currently grappling with. From expansion to governance all are important, all inextricably linked to one another through the sport’s ecosystem. But the questions being asked of the women’s game need answering. There is a critical mass of support behind women’s sport, the likes of AFLW and cricket have shown this. No longer does the lack of support argument wash, the demand is there; however in the case of our sport, it remains largely unmet.

Whilst we face increasing competition for the best athletic talent at home, our real rivals lie beyond our shores; the likes of the USA, Germany and Japan. We need Australia’s best athletes to be able to commit to football knowing that it can support a decent quality of life. We need to back our players with the support they need to beat the very best. We need to offer greatness. If we do all this our players can show the nation who we are as a sport and the world who we are as a nation.

For our country the sport can have a profound impact. Where else can Australia’s young girls watch their heroes shake hands with the heroes of the USA. The heroes of Brazil or the heroes of Germany. This symbolism matters – it can inspire, it can make our country a better more equal place. Our sport can be the symbol of the values we hold as a nation. The sport we are all proud of.

Australian football is standing in the tunnel waiting to come out for the biggest match of its life. We can wilt. Or we can heed to call of International Women’s Day and #BeBoldForChange. The whistle to start the match is imminent. Who are we and who do we want to be?

Professional Footballers Australia is the exclusive representative body and collective bargaining agent of Australia’s elite professional footballers.

Kathryn Gill is a former Matildas captain and record goalscorer.