Tonight Steph Catley will step out on the pitch together with the rest of her Matildas squad in front of almost 50,000 fans expected to fill Brisbane Stadium. The Matildas are squaring off against an in-form French side in the quarterfinals at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Since 2020 Catley has been part of the Arsenal Women’s Team in the English Women’s Super League competition, considered one of the best leagues in the world. She has been a consistent part of the Matildas back four defense line since her debut in 2012 with VIS playing a pivotal part in laying the foundation of her successful career.
Catley first came on scholarship as a 14-year-old in 2008 when VIS hosted a soccer program. From 2012 to 2013 she was part of the VIS Future Talent Program, aimed at identifying and advancing the “next generation” of athletes who will represent Australia at marquee events.
Since 2013 Catley has been an individual scholarship holder, utilising VIS services such as physiotherapy, soft tissue therapy, nutrition, sports psychology and performance lifestyle. Since moving overseas she has come back ‘home’ to the VIS to use the gym when she has been in Melbourne.
In her early years at VIS, Catley worked closely with Marina Mateos in the Athlete Career & Education department (now Performance Lifestyle). In her scholarship application in 2015 she mentioned the importance of her working relationship with Marina from when she first came into the VIS.
“She (Marina) has guided me and discussed endless career options with me no matter how indecisive and unhelpful I was being. Her support has ensured that I enrolled into a course that I love and can see myself making a career out of after football,” Catley said then.
“Being in the national team at quite a young age, I'm still learning every day. Having access to the nutritionists, sports psychologists, physiotherapists and doctors at the VIS has already helped me grow so much as an athlete. And as I progress further in my career, these support networks are going to be vital for me.”
Image: Steph Catley (left) with AFLW and former Matildas player, Brianna Davey.
Catley is one of the Matildas most experienced players and she was called upon to captain the Matildas after an injury to Sam Kerr at the start of this year's World Cup.
Her first World Cup was in 2015 where she started in each of Australia’s five matches. This was also the first time that the Matildas progressed out of the preliminary group play. At the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup she was the Matildas Vice-captain and in 2021 she represented Australia at her second Olympic Games.
Catley is a leader on and off the pitch and in 2021 she was named a Finalist for the very special Sarah Tait Spirit Award, named after the late rower. Her nomination came from the resiliency she had shown overcoming injury and leading by example as she made her way back into the Matildas squad for the Tokyo Olympics.
Performance Health Services Coordinator, Nerissa Byrne a long-serving VIS staff member has very fond memories of Catley, who certainly has made her impact on the VIS over the years.
“Steph would have to be one of the warmest athletes I have come across in my time at VIS. She has such a lovely down-to-earth personality and a smile that warms a room. She would go out of her way to say hello whenever she came in and always completed the requirements that were asked of her. Even when she moved to Arsenal, she would respond when contacted,” Byrne said.
Interestingly in 2016 Catley noted on her VIS scholarship application that two of her goals were to “play at a top club in the world and win a World Cup”.
She has already achieved the first and we hope that we will soon see her achieve the latter.
Tonight, all of Australia will be behind Catley and the most beloved sports team in Australia. Everyone from the VIS will be cheering them on as we watch them try to make history on home soil.