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 2021 mission a simple one – to check out a sport you haven’t seen, and to support female athletes across this country.

Liz Watson – Australian Diamonds/Melbourne Vixens

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.

After making her Australian Diamonds debut in 2016, Liz Watson won the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball Young Star Award in 2017 for her work with the Melbourne Vixens, before she was awarded Australian netball’s most prestigious award, the Liz Ellis Diamond, for her outstanding efforts running the mid-court both domestically and internationally in 2018.

That’s not it for accolades though. In 2018 she was also awarded the Australian International Player of the Year and has been a Super Netball Team of the year recipient every year from 2017-2020.

To say it has been a sensational few years for the Melbourne Vixens Co-Captain would be an understatement. As one of the most dynamic mid-court players in the country, she has cemented herself as, not only one of the best netballers in Australia but, one of the best netballers in the world.

Ellie Blackburn – Western Bulldogs

Coming into 2021, the AFLW competition has entered a very exciting point in its existence. With the inaugural players now clocking five years of elite development, many of them are showcasing career-best form. Add to that the way of high flying talent that’s been drafted in the last few years, and you see a league that is really at its sweet spot.

There are any number of incredible players we could highlight, but right now we can’t look past Western Bulldogs captain Ellie Blackburn. In only a few games this year, she has proved herself to be in career-best form, rocketing herself to league Best and Fairest contention and marking herself as an absolute superstar of the game.

As well as winning the Bulldogs’ inaugural leading goalkicker award in 2017, she was also joint winner of the best and fairest. She captained the side to its first AFLW Premiership in 2018, and was named standalone captain for the 2020 AFLW season. She is also a two-time AFLW All-Australian (2017, 2018) midfielder/forward.

Sam Kerr – Westfield Matildas/Chelsea FC

Surely, in terms of international football exports, Australia can’t look much further than Sam Kerr.

When she dons the green jersey she is an absolute powerhouse. 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.

Joining English Women’s Super League team Chelsea at the end of 2019, she has continued her rampage in front of goal, netting 12 goals so far this season.

She helped her new club win their first-ever Continental Cup title, and is well on the way to taking them to another league victory this season. When the Matildas head to the Olympics, Kerr will surely prove to be an integral part of any medal hopes – so be sure to keep an eye on her, especially in front of goal.

In 2019, she became the first Australian – male or female – to score a hat-trick at a World Cup, netting four times in a group win over Jamaica and scoring a total of five in the tournament.

Ash Barty

What else is there to say about tennis powerhouse Ash Barty. The current world number one recently earned her ninth singles title at the Yarra Valley Classic before making it to the 2021 Australian Open quarterfinals.

Through her continued success she 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. In 2020, she was even named Young Australian of the Year.

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.

Liz Cambage – Australian Opals/Las Vegas Aces

An absolute icon on and off the court, you cannot deny Liz Cambage’s legacy. One of Australia’s greatest ever basketball exports, she has become a mainstay in the WNBA and an enforcer on court for the Opals.

Her career highlights are seconds to none, including being a three-time WNBA All-Star (2011, 18, 19), Two-time All-WNBA performer (First Team-2018, Second Team-2019), she holds the WNBA single-game scoring record with 53 points, currently ranks in the top 10 for defensive rebounds per game and field goal percentage in WNBA history – and that is only scraping the surface.

There is no doubt Cambage will be a key component of any medal chances Australia has at the Tokyo Olympics.

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International Women’s Day takes place on Monday 8 March, giving you 364 other days to continue supporting all the incredible women in Australian sport.