Celebrating an Extraordinary Year: Football Australia's Accolades and Vision Post FIFA Women's World Cup

In an extraordinary year marked by the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023™, Football Australia is celebrating a series of prestigious accolades.

These achievements not only reflect Football Australia’s significant contributions to the sport, both on and off the field, but also underscore the governing body’s strategic vision, as articulated in the Football Australia’s XI Principles for the future of Australian football.

Sport Australia Hall of Fame – The Don Award

In a historic moment for Australian sports, the CommBank Matildas were honoured with the prestigious Don Award for 2023 by the Sport Australia Hall of Fame on Friday, 1 December, commemorating the team’s remarkable journey to and during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™.

Named after the legendary Sir Donald Bradman AC, the highest honour in Australian sport recognises athletes and teams who have profoundly inspired the nation. Kyah Simon's acceptance of the award at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) symbolises not only their exceptional performance but also their contribution to elevating women's sport to a national stature.

Kyah Simon accepting 'The Don Award' at the MCG. (Photo: Sport Australia Hall of Fame)

In her pre-recorded acceptance speech on behalf of the team, CommBank Matildas’ vice-captain and captain during five of the team’s seven FIFA World Cup 2023 matches, Steph Catley said: “On behalf of the Matildas, we are incredibly honoured to be awarded the 2023 The Don Award. The great sporting moments the previous winners of The Don have created are etched into the psyche of many Australians, including my teammates and I, and are part of our collective Australian folklore.”

“Uniting and inspiring the nation was important to this team because when we were growing up what was possible was not always visible. We wanted to provide that same transformative moment and make a lasting change in everyone's minds in Australia and around the world.”

CEO James Johnson remarked: “This recognition for the CommBank Matildas is a testament to our commitment at Football Australia to champion women's football. It embodies our vision of not just excelling in sport but also inspiring and uniting our nation through powerful sporting narratives.”

Sam Kerr and Football Australia Recognised at AFC Awards

In another special day for Australian football, Football Australia received significant recognition from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Annual Awards held in Doha, Qatar on 14 October.

Sam Kerr – AFC's Women's Player of the Year

CommBank Matildas’ captain Sam Kerr was crowned the AFC Women's Player of the Year, a prestigious accolade that celebrates her outstanding contributions to the sport. This award marks Kerr not only as a leading figure in Asian football but also as a global icon in the sport.

Kerr's achievement is historic, making her the third female footballer in the AFC to win this accolade on more than occasion, and the first Australian player, male or female, to receive one of Asia's top honours multiple times. Her win further cements Australia's strong presence in women's football, being the fifth time, an Australian woman has claimed this award.

Football Australia's Commitment to Grassroots Recognised

Parallel to Kerr's individual achievement, Football Australia has been honoured with the 2023 AFC President’s Recognition Award for Grassroots Football. This award, announced by AFC President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, underscores Football Australia's dedicated efforts in nurturing and developing grassroots football.

Johnson adds: “Sam Kerr's achievement and our grassroots recognition by the AFC are milestones that align with our goals. We are dedicated to fostering talent and ensuring the sustainable growth of football in Australia.”

ANU Word of the Year

A symbol of the CommBank Matildas' prominence in Australian society, the Australian National Dictionary Centre selected “Matilda” as the world of 2023.   

The Centre’s Director Dr Amanda Laugesen said this year’s choice was easy given the massive popularity of the team and reflected the growth of interest in women’s team sports.

Dr Laugesen said: “It’s only since the mid-1990s that the women’s soccer team has been called the Matildas, but after this year’s World Cup the word has once again cemented itself in the Australian lexicon.”

Marie Claire Women of the Year Awards – A Night of Triumph for the CommBank Matildas

With a star-studded room of highly acclaimed women from the fields of politics, sport, art, entertainment and fashion, the CommBank Matildas were named 'Champions of the Year' at Marie Claire's 2023 Women of the Year Awards on 23 November in Sydney.

The recognition follows their stellar performance at the FIFA Women's World Cup™, where they reached unprecedented heights. Charli Grant, Kyah Simon, and Lydia Williams accepted the award, symbolising the team's exceptional journey and their indelible legacy in women's football.

Kyah Simon, Charli Grant and Lydia Williams attend the Marie Claire Women of the Year Awards 2023 at Museum of Contemporary Art on November 21, 2023 in Sydney, Australia.

Sam Kerr, a beacon of inspiration in the sport, was honoured as the 'Icon of the Year', edging out prominent figures like Leigh Sales, Cate Blanchett, and Marcia Hines. Reflecting on this achievement, Kerr shared with Marie Claire: "Playing to packed stadiums around the country, in front of family and friends, while having the whole country support and get behind us was the highlight of 2023 for me. It was a surreal time and something I will remember for the rest of my life."

Mary Fowler, gracing the cover of Marie Claire's Woman of The Year cover in November, spoke about the team's achievements, emphasising the special legacy they have left behind.

Reflecting on these achievements, Johnson notes: “Our women’s team’s recognition at the Marie Claire Awards is a source of immense pride and aligns perfectly with our vision of making football the sport of choice for women in Australia. It’s a testament to our focused efforts in enhancing the profile and participation of women in football.”

TikTok Australia Sports Creator of the Year – A Digital Milestone

Football Australia was also proud of the organisation's latest feat – winning the TikTok Australia Sports Creator of the Year award at the TikTok Australia Awards held in Sydney on 6 December.

This award celebrates Football Australia's strategic partnership with TikTok, marking a significant step in Football Australia’s digital engagement strategy. “Our innovative approach to digital engagement, as recognised by this award, is integral to our vision of connecting with fans across diverse platforms,” Johnson states.

GQ Awards – Team of the Year

The Who’s Who of Australian sport, music and entertainment turned out for the GQ Awards with the CommBank Matildas. The team’s inclusion in the event demonstrated the cultural force they have become in the last 12 months and that impact was recognised with the “Team of the Year” Award on 6 December for how they have shaped Australian life in 2023.

Nominated for the Ballon d’Or off the back of her sensational performances at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Hayley Raso reflected on the impression of the team.

“Something I’ve always wanted to do is inspire young girls and boys in the way I play and how I am off the field. So, to see and know that young girls have my ribbons in their hair or are wearing my jersey just goes to show that maybe I’ve managed to do that.”

“It’s exactly where we want to be. We dreamed of selling out games and playing in front of packed stadiums. It shows how far the game has grown and that we are finally getting what we worked for.”

Johnson highlighted that the 'Team of the Year' award at the GQ Awards for the CommBank Matildas reinforces their cultural influence. “This accolade from GQ highlights the cultural resonance of our women’s team, mirroring our ambition to position football as a leading force in the Australian sporting landscape,” Johnson comments.

Football Content Awards – A Bronze Victory

Football Australia secured a Bronze Award at the International Football Content Awards, recognising their outstanding online media presence. This accolade underlines Football Australia's commitment to delivering high-quality, engaging content, placing them alongside the top international football clubs.

A Bright Future Ahead

These awards are not just a recognition of past achievements but also a beacon for the future. As Australia wraps up the year on the back of the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023™, Football Australia stands at the forefront of promoting and elevating the sport, both nationally and globally.

"As we reflect on a successful FIFA Women's World Cup and these accolades, our focus remains steadfast on leveraging this momentum to elevate Australian football globally.

“These awards not only celebrate past achievements but also set the stage for our future initiatives, aligning with our clear strategic agenda of nurturing talent, promoting inclusivity, and enhancing the global standing of Australian football.” concludes Johnson.