Sport

International Womens Day

Changing the game: The Australian athletes you need to know

This International Women's Day, we are shining the spotlight on some of the greatest athletes currently taking the field in Australia.

There is no shortage of incredible female athletes competing across Australia – so, of course, our national teams continue to sit among the world’s best.

We could write a thesis singing their praises, but for this International Women’s Day we have handpicked just a few – and believe us, it was tough narrowing down this list.

These players and athletes continue to make a name for themselves at both national and international levels in their respective sports. From Australian veterans to up and comers – everyone here deserves to be celebrated.

After you’ve finished reading. After you’ve discovered some new incredible athletes and deep-dived into some sports you mightn’t have followed before. Make your 2020 mission a simple one – to check out a sport you haven’t seen, and to support female athletes across this country. 

Chelsea Pitman ­– Adelaide Thunderbirds (netball)

international womens day chelsea pitman

Australia has no shortage of world-class netball talent to talk about, which is why the Diamonds continue to rank among the top teams in every international competition and have done so since international world championships first began.

One of the most senior players in the Suncorp Super Netball, Adelaide Thunderbirds 2019 co-captain Chelsea Pitman has a resume to envy. The star Wing Attack’s accolades include Commonwealth Gold Medallist, club MVP, 2018 Vice-captain, and 2019 Co-captain. She is also one of the most experienced and well-travelled players in the world after representing clubs in Australia, New Zealand and England and earning Diamonds and Roses caps across her career.

Her style as a wing is different from many in the modern game, with her focus on ability to find space, over speed or agility. It has seen Pitman remain one of the most consistent Wings across her celebrated career.

After a much improved 2019, 2020 is set to be a huge year for her team, the Adelaide Thunderbirds. With Jamaican keeper Shamera Sterling and the emergence of Sasha Glasgow they are a team to watch. It’s no doubt having a force like Pitman in the centre third can only bolster this team.

Kiara Bowers – Fremantle Dockers (AFLW)

international womens day kiara bowers

Heading into Round 5 of the 2020 AFLW season, there is a lot to love about the Fremantle Dockers, and that has a lot to do with Kiara Bowers. She is an absolute force to be reckoned with and has been a key component of the Dockers’ success this year.

You can’t argue with a midfielder who is averaging 14.5 tackles a game, who also kicked an essential goal in her teams clutch-win against the Saints in Round 4, and is also the first AFLW player to score a perfect 10 AFL Coaches votes across five games.

As well as being ranked first in tackles and pressure points, she’s also rated top ten in contested possessions, clearances, metres gained, and score involvements. That’s definitely a player you want in your team.

Originally signed as one of Fremantle’s first marquee players, a knee injury saw her miss the first two AFLW seasons, but since she took the field, there has been no stopping Bowers.

Across just ten senior games, following her 2019 debut, Bowers is well and truly creating a legacy of her own in the purple and white – leading out of the gates as an inspirational, gutsy player who is admired across the league. While the game is still in its early stages, there is no doubt that when we look back on the early years of the AFLW, we’ll be celebrating players like Kiara Bowers.

Sam Kerr – Westfield Matildas (Soccer)

international womens day sam kerr

We can’t talk about Australian soccer or the Matildas and look past Sam Kerr. Named the Best Female Footballer in 2019, the Matildas star scored a stunning 40 goals in 41 games, finishing as the Golden Boot winner for both the Westfield W-League and the National Women’s Soccer League, including five goals at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

Her form even earned her a move to English club Chelsea, signing for the Women’s Super League club in November on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

Matilda’s Head Coach Ante Milicic said it perfectly, “On and off the pitch, Sam is a leader who not only produces spectacular moments for club and country, but is committed to doing the type of work that often goes unnoticed.”

She just helped her new club win their first-ever Continental Cup title, and if the Matildas can make it all the way to the Olympics, Kerr will surely prove to be an integral part of any medal hopes.

Ash Barty (Tennis)

international womens day ash barty

What else is there to say about tennis powerhouse Ash Barty. The current world number one and 2019 French Open winner has well and truly pushed Australia back to the forefront of the international tennis circuit.

In 2019, Barty became the first Australian Grand Slam champion in eight years, the first Australian French Open Singles Champion since Margaret Court in 1973, and only the second Australian WTA Singles world number one since the legendary Evonne Goolagong Cawley. This year, she was named as Young Australian of the Year.

This year, she made it to the Australian Open Semi-Finals – a feat we hadn’t witnessed for an Australian player in quite some time. But it is more than her feats on the court that ensure Barty will be remembered as one of the greatest Australian players of all time.

It is also her class off the court, the way she is inspiring countless young players to pick up a racket, and leading Australia into a bright tennis future that makes Ash Barty more than just an incredible athlete.

Cate Campbell (Swimming)

international womens day cate campbell

With the Tokyo Olympics quickly approaching, we cannot put together this list without screaming about Australian swimming champion Cate Campbell. It’s hard to forget the heartbreak of her 2016 Rio campaign, but after taking 2017 off, her incredible form at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games – where she won gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay, 50m freestyle, and 50m butterfly (which she had no prior experience in) and silver in the 100m freestyle – that put her right back on track.

At just 16 years of age, Campbell made her Olympic debut at the 2008 Beijing Games, where she claimed two bronze medals. Since then, she has represented Australia at three Olympics, two Commonwealth Games, three World Championships and three Pan Pacific Championships. At her most recent outing at the 2018 Pan Pacs in Tokyo, the freestyler took home a whopping five gold medals, giving her an overall international gold medal tally of 18.

She had a strong 2019, coming out as the overall winner of the World Cup women’s standings and, when she takes the blocks at the 2020 Olympics – her fourth time in the Olympic Gold cap – she will equal Leisel Jones’ record.

Rachael Lynch – Australian Hockeyroos (Hockey)

international womens day rachael lynch

Veteran Hockeyroo, dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist, and World Cup silver medallist – not a bad resume for Rachael Lynch.

After making her international senior team debut at the 2006 Champions Trophy in the Netherlands, Lynch got her chance to play in her first Olympics in Rio 2016 as the Australian goalkeeper. In her career, she has played over 200 games for Australia.

Renowned for her standout performances under the bar during a shoot-out, following a standout year she was announced as the FIH Female Goalkeeper of the Year for 2019. She also became the most capped goalkeeper to play for the Australian national team.

Heading into the 2020 Olympics, Australia now boasts the world’s best shot-stopper – that’s got to be a daunting hurdle for any goal scorer to face.

International Women’s Day takes place on Sunday 8 March 2020.