Let’s Celebrate The Trailblazers of Women’s Football In Australia

Final match between Australia and France at Brisbane Stadium on August 12, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images )
Liz Courtney


Aug 21, 2023

We are all still celebrating the success of the Matilda’s but it’s time we pay homage to the trailblazers that helped them get there. Even Matilda’s Captain Sam Kerr acknowledged this week that it’s not what happens on the field, it’s what happens off the field.

Here Liz Courtney interviews Heather Reid, one of the trailblazers of Women’s Football in Australia. Here’s what Heather shared in her own words:

“We have come a long way in 50 years but let’s not forget the trailblazers who built the foundations of women’s football in Australia largely off volunteer groups. Thinking back 50 years when the first soccer championships were held in 1974, we had five teams who came together in Sydney to participate in the first national championship.

At the end the tournament it was agree that we would form the first Women’s Australian Soccer Association, with little support from the men’s association to at this time.

All volunteers. They took the responsibility to develop Australian soccer for women. To develop the game, the running of competitions and the selection of teams to participate in international competition. Elaine Watson from Queensland became the first president in 1975 and the sport began to grow from the fledging competition to nine teams playing the national championships from 1980.

All of the teams were supported by volunteers – coaches, and players had to pay their own way to play and participate in the national championships.

When the first team was selected for a national championship in 1978, they participated in Taiwan and again had to pay to participate this that tournament.

In 1979, the first Australian team played in an International in NZ and again the players raised funds to be able to play for Australia.

Through to the mid-1990’s, a number of key women with male allies continued to develop the game and support national teams that played mainly oversea and every time the players paid to represent their country.”

With the support of trailblazers like Elaine and Heather Reid the sport developed international relationship with a network of key people from other countries that helped create the first World Cup for Women in 1991 and subsequently Olympic game status from 1996.

All of this was mainly done through volunteer support and a new national administration with a paid employee from Canberra from 1986, with Heather Reid at the helm.

Heather added: “Over the last 50 years we have gone from volunteer trailblazers, who paid to represent their country, and second hand uniforms to the point now where the national team is paid reasonable wages, they have a great collective bargaining agreement that provides security and important  benefits to their employment and they are also supported by dozens of paid employees in technical coaching, management sport science and more.

“We have come a long way bashing on the doors and fighting for media coverage and many of the trailblazers can stand proudly on where we were and where we have arrived at today – from our first international game in New Zealand in 1978 to our biggest best most successful world cup every, co-hosted with our sisters across the Tasman.”

Helen Reid
Heather Reid – a trailblazer of women’s football in Australia and globally


Heather Reid has devoted four decades to football as a volunteer, player, coach and administrator.

A foundation member of the ACT Women’s Association in 1979, Reid was an advocate for the establishment of a Women’s World Cup and admission to the Olympic Games.

She is a Life Member of the ACT Women’s Sport Association, and in 2000 was awarded the Australian Sports Medal.

She was CEO of ACT Football Federation Ltd (Capital Football) for 12 years from 2004 and General Manager of Canberra United in the Westfield W-League for nine seasons.

She has a Bachelor of Arts, Graduate Diploma in Sport Management and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Canberra.

She has served on several boards including Women Sport Australia, the ACT Olympic Council and the Burns Club Ltd, and was on the Local Organising Committee AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 Ltd.

Heather Reid AM was elected to the Board of Football Australia in November 2018, and is a member of the Referees Committee and FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Bid Committee.


By Liz Courtney


Liz Courtney is a documentary maker and notably directed Earth’s Survival and the series The Tipping Points of Climate Change. She is a mother and social entrepreneur. Liz was one of the winners of 100 Women of Influence awards in 2015



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