The Westfield Matildas: A truly Australian story

The story of Australian football is a story about our nation’s migrant history.

First introduced in the late 19th century by Englishman John Walter Fletcher, football (or soccer) soon became a space for migrant communities – many of whom fled war and persecution in their homelands – to gather and celebrate their culture and heritage.

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Many of Australia’s oldest football clubs were formed by these immigrant groups: the Greeks of South Melbourne and Sydney Olympic, the Italians of Marconi and Adelaide City, the Croatians of Melbourne Knights, Sydney United and Perth's Western Knights.

As European migration in the early 20th century gave way to migration from Africa and the Middle East, Australia’s historic ethnic clubs opened their arms to all who spoke the common language of football.

Australia’s immigrant history continues to be reflected in our national teams, including the Westfield Matildas.

Several players can trace their heritage back to football’s European roots.

Steph Catley has English heritage and football runs in her family’s DNA, as does a love of Arsenal FC. Catley’s 97-year-old grandfather George is a mad Gunners fan, having been born and raised in London. Now he gets to see his grand-daughter play for the club and country he holds dear.


Chloe Logarzo has Scottish and Italian heritage. Like many central and southern Europeans, Logarzo’s nonna Gina Zarrella came to Australia by boat and settled here.

The Italian contribution to Australian society is seen everywhere from the restaurants and café culture to the bricks and mortar of local football clubs.

Logarzo follows in the footsteps of proud Italian Westfield Matildas like former captain Melissa Barbierim who represented Australia at four FIFA Women's World Cups including as captain in 2011, and Angela Iannotta, who wrote her name into the history books by scoring Australia’s first goal at a FIFA Women’s World Cup. 

24 years later, Logarzo’s name was also on the scoresheet at the game’s biggest tournament in 2019, being named Player of the Match after the Miracle of Montpellier.

MORE: Angela Iannotta: From Albury into the Australian football history books]

The Westfield Matildas also have a history of Croatian representation. Players like Dianne Alagich – whose family name has almost become synonymous with Australian football – in the 1990s and 2000s, to Emily Gielnik in the current squad.

Sam Kerr’s nanna, Coral, migrated from India with her husband and children. Behind England and China, India is the third most common birthplace outside of Australia for migrants. 

Coral can often be found in the stands of Sam's matches, cheering on as her grand-daughter captains her adopted country.  

The current Australian team also has a strong Nordic influence, from the oldest member of the squad to the youngest.

Aivi Luik’s family come from Estonia and Sweden while Karly Røestbakken has Norwegian heritage.

From the Asian continent Moya Dodd's family history includes her Chinese grandparents who were market gardeners in Western Sydney and more recently Amy Sayer who earned her first cap in 2018.  Meanwhile Casey Dumont (South African heritage) and Princess Ibini (Nigerian heritage) have family origins that hail from the African continent.   

The team’s Indigenous history is longstanding, too. From Karen Menzies – the first Indigenous woman to don the green and gold – and Bridgette Starr to Kyah Simon and Lydia Williams, the Westfield Matildas have always reflected Australia’s multicultural fabric.

MORE: Karen Menzies: "I cried the first time I went on the field and I had that Australian shirt on"

Williams’ story also includes a migrant element with her American mother moving to Western Australia to marry her Indigenous father. 

These are just a handful of the migrant stories that run throughout the Westfield Matildas, past and present.

They represent us as a nation on the grandest stages, but they also represent us as a society; a microcosm of Australia on a football field.

While we’re a football community of over 185 nationalities speaking over 300 languages, this game is the vocabulary that unites us.

Australian football’s story is Australia’s migrant story, and the game will continue to be enriched by the contributions of communities from all over the world as new stars emerge to don the green and gold.