Sam Kerr was the last West Australian to debut for the Matildas — and that was 10 years ago. (AAP: Brendon Thorne)
If you simply looked at global superstar Sam Kerr, you would think women’s soccer in Western Australia was going better than ever.
But the reality is, Kerr was the last WA player to debut for the Matildas, Australia’s national women’s soccer team.
It has been 10 years since she made her breakthrough as a 15-year-old against Italy back in 2009.
The drought has occurred despite the success of the Matildas, as well as a continued surge in participation.
Kerr (left) and the Matildas have had much to celebrate, but women’s soccer in WA is still facing challenges. (AAP: Dean Lewins)
Football West figures show there are almost 40,000 female players in the state, an increase of nearly 40 per cent over the period from 2016 to 2018.
That is staggering growth. So why isn’t WA producing more national representatives?
A disjointed pathway with no NPL
Many are blaming the lack of a cohesive pathway from juniors to seniors and a disconnect between the local league and W-League side Perth Glory.
In Western Australia, there is no women’s National Premier League like in some other states.
The NPL is a structured second-tier competition that sits beneath the W-League and A-League.
So the absence of the NPL in the west makes the system for female players in WA disjointed.
The number of female soccer players in WA has soared towards 40,000 in recent years. (Supplied: Kenit Png)
There are strong senior clubs with no junior pathways and a lot of good junior clubs that have no senior team.
Leadership from the governing body is needed to bring all the different groups together, but so far that has proved difficult, according to Conrad McKelvie, who has been a member of Football West’s women’s standing committee.
”The reality is even if we start moving towards that, it is going to probably be five years down the track before we are at a situation where clubs are at a level where they can even be considered in the same breath as the eastern states NPL programs,” he said.
Right now, a girl cannot join the game and play at the same club all the way though to the senior team.
The Matildas’ success is yet to translate into more WA players in the national team. (AAP: Bianca De Marchi)
Football Federation Australia ultimately wants a women’s NPL in all states, but right now WA is falling behind — and it is to the detriment of the sport.
AFL teams ‘full of ex-soccer players’
There is another major challenge. While soccer has always been a strong drawcard for women without being well organised, but now there are increasing options for talented female athletes.
”Top players from the league are going to AFL instead because the opportunities and the standards are better at the moment,” McKelvie said.
”You have got players who have played premier league here [in Perth] who have had no look in at the Glory, who have now gone to play for the Fremantle Dockers or the West Coast Eagles team.
”Those teams are full of ex-soccer players.”
A lot is also hinging on the proposed high performance state football centre, earmarked for Maniana Park in the southern Perth suburb of Queens Park, which is still waiting on funding approval from the WA Government.
The timeline remains uncertain despite a $16 million election commitment by the Commonwealth Government.
The Morrison Government has pledged $16 million towards the establishment of a state football centre in Queens Park. (Supplied: Football West)
“If we had the money of course we would build it and other community sport-supporting infrastructure,” WA Sport and Recreation Minister Mick Murray said in a statement.
“But the reality is that the budget position makes a state contribution very difficult.
“We are currently engaging with the Commonwealth Government to understand the arrangements surrounding its election commitment.”
In the meantime, women’s soccer in Western Australia is stalling, as other codes circle their best talent.
Kerr is a superstar for the Matildas and just broke her own US single-season scoring record. (Reuters: Eric Gaillard)