Long before the Matildas became one of the most dominant forces in world football, players like Thirroul’s Julie Porter was helping blaze a trail for the future.
The region’s first ever Matilda suited up for Australia in the early 1980s and was capped 19 times in green and gold.
By Porter’s own admission, it was an era of a more moderate expectation for the national team.
But she says it didn’t ‘stop them causing a surprise’.
“Back in the day we didn’t have the coverage but we still did have some very gifted players,” Porter said. “It is lovely to see the game go the way it has gone in recent years.
“The Matildas are a very talented team.”
More than 30 years later, there are now three players from the region in the national team.
Last Sunday Porter was on hand to see one of the region’s next generation play when Matildas striker Michelle Heyman suited up for the Illawarra Stingrays.
Porter, who still played competitively up until three years ago, was in attendance at the match to receive her official Australian cap three decades after she last played for the team.
“It was absolutely sensational and a huge honour no matter how much later it was,” Porter said.
“It was lovely to have it on the Stingrays turf and I couldn’t quite believe it.
“I have been lost for words over the whole thing to be honest.
“I’ve always appreciated the help and support of the Illawarra community throughout my career. They are just as deserving.”