Growing up, Kyah Simon was inspired by Cathy Freeman. Now the Matilda hopes to motivate a new generation of sports stars. By Jack Kerr.


Scoring goals: Kyah Simon, 23, soccer player

My boss is very supportive of the time I need to commit to my football. We’ve had an almost full-time program with the Matildas leading into the World Cup, but usually I’m working four days a week at a finance company. And with training full-time on top of that, it’s a pretty full-on schedule. Thankfully my boss knows that football is my No. 1 priority, and when I can’t go into work he’s very, very understanding.

We’re definitely better prepared for a World Cup than ever before. [The FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada begins on June 6]. We had a seven-week tour of Europe that included playing in the Cyprus Cup, a game in Switzerland, and a full-time training camp in Italy. Being in that environment, you really get to work on the culture and team morale, and you can see that out on the pitch.

A fair few of my relatives have represented Australia in rugby league. Jamal Idris, Kurtley Beale, John Simon. We’ve got an Olympic hurdler cousin as well. So sport and rugby league is definitely in the blood, but football was not what I was brought up with. My family just had to adapt to my choice, and obviously being a girl, my parents were quite happy with me choosing a lesser-contact sport.

Being the first Aboriginal to score at a World Cup was definitely an honour and a proud moment. I really appreciate that I could give back to my family and to my supporters, and also to the Aboriginal community. Having that Aboriginal heritage, it’s something that I carry with extra pride. I represent Australia, but also I represent the Aboriginal people, and hopefully I can inspire younger girls to chase their dreams, the way Cathy Freeman inspired me.

The women’s game is more accepting of homosexuality than the men’s. Maybe it’s because females in general express their emotions easier, and are more accepting and supportive of people’s choices. Men can see it as a weakness, and might be more embarrassed to come out. There’s no room for homophobia in sport and I believe in each individual making their own decisions to keep themselves happy. Whatever decision they make, support it.

Female players do tend to stay on our feet a little bit more than male ones. It’s something to do with the culture in the men’s game and how they are brought up to play. They are better milkers of free kicks, whereas we just really want to get in there and battle and fight, so falling over seems to be half a defeat.

One of the most interesting countries I’ve played in is the UAE. I went to Abu Dhabi for the Ramadan tournament. It was an eye-opener. Women are obviously looked at in a different way, I guess you could say, but you have those different values in different countries, and we just soaked it up and rolled with the experience. It was just an all-time good time.

Exposure and investment – the men have it, but it’s something that the women’s game is lacking. If we did, we’d be able to do these full-time programs every year, and the game would grow even more phenomenally than it already has. The crowds we get are still quite disappointing, but hopefully big tournaments like this will show the world what we can do.

At Germany 2011, I scored a couple of goals in our last group game and that got us through to the quarter-finals. So that was definitely the highlight for me. And also just the whole experience of being there. It’s the biggest footballing tournament in the world, and the whole experience is very surreal. You’ve got the sellout crowds and the big, packed stadiums.

If we perform to our potential in every game, then we can go all the way and win the World Cup. We’ve got so much raw talent – more talent than we ever have had before – and there’s also belief among the group. Every team is a tough opponent, but we are just focusing on ourselves and we will be really going out there to play a positive game. We’ve got aspirations to go all the way and win the World Cup, but we’re focusing on our first challenge, and that’s against the USA.

1 . This week’s highlights…

• Netball: West Coast Fever v NSW Swifts

Saturday, 10.18am (AWST), Perth Arena

• AFL: Richmond v Essendon

Saturday, 7.20pm (AEST), Melbourne Cricket Ground

• AFL: Adelaide Crows v Fremantle

Saturday, 7.10pm (ACST), Adelaide Oval

• Soccer: FA Cup final – Arsenal v Aston Villa

Sunday, 2.30am (AEST), Wembley Stadium, London

• NRL: Dragons v Sharks

Sunday, 4pm (AEST), Jubilee Oval, Kogarah, Sydney

• Tennis: French Open – Fourth Round

Sunday, from 7pm (AEST), Roland Garros, Paris

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 30, 2015 as "Scoring goals".

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Jack Kerr is a dual Australian Sports Commission Media Awards winner who writes about the business of sport.

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