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The First Matildas – the 1975 Asian Ladies Championship

The Matilda’s have taken the world by storm during the 2023 Women’s World Cup series and raised the focus of women soccer and almost by default, women’s sport in Australia to the highest levels ever known, and certainly the accolades they have been receiving are very, very long overs due.

The First Matilda’s written by Greg Downes pays tribute to the women, and the men, who formed the first Matilda’s Women’s Football team that went on to represent Australia in the 1975 Asian Ladies Championship and became known as the 1975ers.  

How this came about and the many challenges that had to be faced, overcome and then in several instances accepted, makes interesting reading. These women, from many cultural backgrounds, came together from far and wide locations to begin the formation of what has today, resulted in a formidable force of women excelling in what was once a stanchly male dominated area.

Each of the women that made up this historic side have been interviewed in detail about how they came to play football, how they discovered their local, or not so local sides and what it was like to train, work, and compete, before eventually going to Hong Kong to represent Australia in the AFC Women’s Cup which back in 1975 was something incredibly special.

This AFC World Cup competition was the first of its kind and was run by the Asian Ladies Football Confederation; to get there was a challenge in itself, but one that was well met. In 2022, these pioneering women were still not recognised in full for their great achievement. Why? Because they were not men and the Football Association is still a political machine! The 2023 team will have hopefully shattered this concept for all time.

Pat and Joe O’Connor, migrants to Australia where the instigators for the development of women’s football in New South Wales as well as going on to develop and formalise many aspects of the modern game. Joe, an Irishman from country Clair met and married Pat, a Warwickshire lass and decided to move to Australia in 1963 because of the weather and their love of the outdoors. They are now considered as the Godparents of Australian Women’s Football.

A simple note from their son’s school asking if he would like to join the local soccer club, proved to be impetus that would result in what is today, a modern vibrant, highly respected team of Women who are taking, not only Australia but the world by storm as they continue to raise the bar for women athlete’s world-wide.

The 1975ers, effectively the first Matilda’s began an historic journey, failed to get the recognition they well deserved but through their efforts, refusal to accept the limitation placed upon them and all the challenges of carving a place in a male dominated world of sport, have now, almost 40 years later, with the Matilda’s of 2023, finally achieved the recognition Australian women in sport so richly deserve.

As with many books relating to a particular subject, in this case Woman Football, the material is interesting to the fans and supporters of the Sport. The style with which the history is compiled is somewhat unusual as the interviews with the women have been used as separate stories.

These have been tied together with facts and background, which, draws attention to the women who are the focus, as they describe what it was like to be part of such a momentous change in sport and one that has seen many of them go on to be leading ‘ladies’ in the development of Women’s Football in Australia and world-wide.

Author Greg Downes
Publisher Fair Play Publishing
ISBN 978-1-925914-52-8
Distributor Fair Play Publishing
Released June 2023