Steph Catley - Australia
My name is Steph Catley - Stephanie if we're being formal or I'm in some sort of trouble. I started kicking a football around when I was 5 or 6 with my brother and some of the other boys who lived in our street. I followed my brother to club football when I was 7 and have been playing every single day since.
Who is in the photos? Where were the photos taken?
I took a fair few photos of different players in rehab because I feel a deep connection and understanding of the struggles and mental battles that someone goes through when they are in rehab. It can be a lonely, unforgiving place to be as a footballer and I've seen some great comebacks and perseverance stories come from players who have been injured and fought back. Kyah Simon is pictured a few times in my photos, she's been knocked down many times and is pictured during a time where she was racing against the clock to make the World Cup squad for France after a complete ankle reconstruction. Other photos are of my teammates from Melbourne, Seattle and the Matildas in their daily environments, on game day, on recovery days at the beach.
What is your favourite photo?
The photo of Lydia Williams sprawled on top of the brand new World Cup balls. It was a moment I wanted to capture as significant for the upcoming tournament and it was a classic Lydia way to go about it. I think the photo sums up the overall culture in our team. We're heading into one of the biggest tournaments of our careers but we'll still be the same free spirited, relaxed, friendly bunch of Aussies that we've always been.
What has been your football journey up until now?
My career has been a steady incline from the day that I started. When I began, I just loved playing. I was the only girl in a boy’s team for six years. I loved the challenge, I loved proving people wrong, I loved winning but mostly I loved getting better. Mum would often threaten that I wouldn't be allowed to train if I was acting up when I was younger, and to me it was the ultimate threat and would put me straight back into line.
Eventually, I was identified for a representative program in Victoria where I would train most days and play against boys. From there, I made state teams and then the U17 and U20 Young Matildas teams. After a few years of steady progress in the W-League, I was called into my first Matildas camp at 17 years old. I played at Melbourne Victory for 7 years, winning a title as Captain in my final season there. In 2015, I made the move across to Melbourne City where I was a part of a history making, undefeated, premiership and championship winning team. The following two seasons we won two more, back to back championships in which I had the privilege of leading the team.
I've also played in America for the last 6 years. Two years in Portland, two in Orlando, and I am now in my second season with Seattle. I'm very proud of my achievements in football but mostly I'm proud of the way I've been able to come back from setbacks and life hurdles and still be able to compete and better myself every day. I've been injured a lot, in many cases during major tournaments. And I also lost my father suddenly at the end of last year. Within this, football suddenly doesn't feel as important, but one thing I've learnt is that the people, the unity and the family that you develop with people within football are the most important part of all of it. And for those relationships, I'm forever grateful.
What are the opportunities for female footballers in Australia?
Opportunities for female footballers in Australia are growing every day. And a lot of the growth is a direct result of our national team’s success. The Australian public has embraced us as a result of our ability as players on the field, our entertaining style of play but also the different characters that make up our team. There are so many different personalities, quirks and talents but there's also an in-built respect from where we've come from that makes our team relatable and accessible.
What role does football play in Australian society?
Australians love their sport. Often dominated by Australia Rules Football (AFL), cricket and netball, football has for years been chugging away quietly, gathering momentum every year. With limited funding from the government, it still manages to attract the most participants for boys and more recently girls too. It used to be considered a 'weak' sport for men to play in comparison to AFL or NRL (Rugby). Boys in particular would be bullied and called all sorts of discriminatory and racist names for playing a sport that was not considered 'tough'. This attitude has left our pathways and development of elite players severely delayed in comparison to other countries. However, Australia is also very multicultural and football is the world game, so when it really comes down to it, nothing compares to it and the football fans and players show up in numbers.
What does football mean to you?
I have a pretty good grip on my relationship with football. I'm so grateful for it and for everything it has brought me. It's my passion, my favourite thing in the world to do and it also happens to be my career. I'm so incredible lucky to be able to do what I love every, single day. But I'm also very aware that it's a short career, it's not a forever identity or something I can always lean on. So I have a relationship and an understanding with football that I will give it absolutely everything I have right now because it could be over in the blink of an eye, or five or six more years.
What is the future for Australian women's football? What do you expect to change after the 2019 WWC?
I think the future of Australian Women's football could be completely accelerated if this team does something huge in France this year. I think we're on the edge of a massive breakthrough in Australia, so if we were to bring home a medal and say 'here's the proof', I think funding, full time leagues, representative teams... I think it would all take off in a big way.
What does your family think of your job as a professional soccer player?
My family love what I do. My Mum loves coming to all of my games, she's recently enjoyed a few overseas trips to watch me play. I think for her, watching me play must be rewarding. She put in so many hours in the car driving me from place to place to play and train. She fundraised to get me to state championships and to be able to afford boots and physio appointments. So when she says she's proud of me, it means everything to me to know that I've been able to give her a sense of happiness through what I do every day. And my brother taught me most of my values within sport but in life in general. He taught me to be strong and competitive, he built an innate confidence within me that I could beat anyone but more importantly, he taught me that being driven and humble were by far the most important part of all of it. He's coming to France and already, thinking about seeing him in the stands pulls at my heartstrings and makes me want to make him proud of the biggest stage of all.
What’s one thing you always do before a game?
The night before, I always cook and eat Spaghetti Bolognese. And then on game day, I usually eat the left over cold pasta, plain. I also listen to a lot of music but mostly, I try to just relax and keep things really normal.