Public school prodigies set for World Cup glory

The final Matildas squad for the 2023 World Cup will have more than its share of NSW public school alumni. Glenn Cullen reports.

A young female soccer player takes a selfie with female students. A young female soccer player takes a selfie with female students.
Image: Matildas squad member and former Westfields Sports High alumni Jada Whyman with current students.

Such is the strength and depth of girls’ football in NSW public schools, former students could field a competitive standalone team to play at this year’s World Cup.

Eleven NSW public school alumni have made the penultimate Matildas squad for the marquee event that kicks off on 20 July 2023 in Australia and New Zealand.

Westfields Sports High leads the way with four selections (Jada Whyman, Alanna Kennedy, Ellie Carpenter and Courtney Nevin); The Hills Sports High has Kyah Simon and Chloe Logarzo; and Hunter Sports High (Clare Wheeler) and Illawarra Sports High (Caitlin Foord) are each represented.

But sports high schools aren’t the only pathways for the future elite in the sport.

Being based outside of a capital city was certainly no barrier for Mary Fowler (Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts), Clare Hunt (Henry Lawson High School, Grenfell) or Emily van Egmond (Whitebridge High School, Lake Macquarie).

The Matildas will unveil their final 23-player squad for the tournament on 3 July.

Peter Banks, Leader of the School Sport Unit, said the Department of Education supports and nurtures students through school sport to “promote physical fitness, develop qualities of courage, determination and unselfishness while reinforcing the values of team spirit, self-sacrifice and loyalty”.

“These will no doubt be evident as our Matildas take on the world,” he said.

Former The Hills Sports High School student Logarzo has had a tougher road than most just to get this far.

A mainstay of the national side over much of the past decade with 49 caps, the gritty midfielder was struck with a serious knee injury and plantar fasciitis but refused to let the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of a home World Cup wither on the vine.

“For 18 months since the knee injury, the plan has been the same: get myself fit, ready and healthy to make the World Cup team,” she said.

“That’s all I can do.”

Logarzo, returning to her former school, Hills Sports High, after years travelling the world with her sport, paid tribute to a place that helped shape her life.

“I would not be where I am if I didn’t come to this school,” she said.

“The school, [then coach] Alen Stajcic, the time that I spent here and the development that I had during school and the programs that it led to after … it forged a pathway for me which was amazing.”

The school’s Director of Sport, Andrew Tetley, said Logarzo, who came through the school’s ranks shortly after 111-capped Matilda Kyah Simon, was an amazing role model.

“Not only was she a wonderful footballer but a wonderful student and human being first and foremost and that is what we always try and do our very best to produce,” he said.

The World Cup has already left its mark on Westfields Sports High School, with the trophy being shown off at the school in a special presentation with current Matildas squad member and alumni Jada Whyman.

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