16 September Australia-Australian goalkeeper Lydia Williams says a record W-League pay deal has been a long time coming as the Matildas prepare to face Brazil in front of a sell-out crowd at Penrith Stadium on Saturday.
More than 17,000 fans are expected to pour through the gates which could surpass the Wallabies crowd at Canberra Stadium when they host Argentina a few hours later.
It would mark the first time across Australia’s four football codes that an international women’s crowd eclipsed a men’s fixture when played on the same day.
Williams admits she never thought she’d see that day in her career, but said the Matildas turnout is a sign of the times as women’s sport in Australia goes from strength to strength.
“With the boost in all women’s sporting codes and how well we’ve done on the world stage I think it’s been a long time coming,” Williams said.
“A lot of our results over the last couple of years have drawn interest from the Australian public and part of that comes from the AFLW getting involved and new pay conditions for cricket and netball.
“We want to get up to the USA team are in terms of support where they have sell-out crowds all the time, but we made good progress striking a new pay deal in the W-League.”
Williams was part of the Matildas team which boycotted a tour of America in 2015 and said the financial support for the women’s game didn’t happen overnight.
“At the time of the strike it could have been taken two ways but the most important thing was we all stuck together and we’re pretty happy now with our conditions,” Williams said.
“We still have a little while to go but this is the beginning of it and we have to take responsibility ourselves and get the results we need to help drive that support.”
It has been a whirlwind month for Williams who won the Tournament of Nations with the Matildas and then survived Hurricane Harvey in Texas, before getting traded from Houston to Seattle in the WNSL.
“Harvey came through and dumped nine trillion gallons of water over Houston, so we couldn’t go on any roads and were stuck in floods for about five days,” Williams said.
“It made me get a bit more aware on life situations… but our host family in Houston had been through hurricanes before so they were calm when I was freaking out.”
Williams escaped Harvey to Seattle but as fate would have it her first game back was away against Houston, albeit relocated to Dallas.
“I wasn’t really happy [at Houston] and needed to be playing and if I could go anywhere I wanted it to be Seattle, so that was kind of the catalyst to make that happen,” Williams said.
As for the Brazilians, Williams said she’s expecting anything but a repeat of the 6-1 thrashing they handed the side which knocked the Matildas out of the Rio Olympics last year.
“They’re going to obviously have players that were there at the Tournament of Nations who will be coming out to get revenge,” Williams said.
“They’ve proven themselves to be tough opponents at the World Cup and Olympics and we’re expecting another hard contest.”