In the same year that Caitlin Foord and Mary Fowler lit it up on the world's biggest stage, it only seems fitting that the Illawarra Stingrays are powering ahead in 2023.
Stingrays alumni Foord and Fowler played key roles in the Matildas' record-breaking run at the FIFA Women's World Cup. Back home, their former club has been in great form, particularly their under-16s.
The Stingrays U/16s claimed 20 wins from 26 starts this NPL NSW Women's season on their way to being crowned minor premiers last Sunday at Macedonia Park. They capped their impressive campaign with a 4-1 victory over Sydney Olympic.
It's an milestone that brings a smile to the face of the club's technical director Troy Spink who, alongside first-grade head coach Steve Gordon, are driving an ambitious long-term plan to make the Stingrays a NPL powerhouse.
"It's an amazing achievement by that group and their coach Ewan (Boff). Overall for the club, it's amazing to have the team achieve that to prove the development that's coming through the club," Spink told the Mercury.
"When I came on board last year, we started to implement a three to four-year plan. So to see that come to the front of what we're achieving with the grades - and seeing those results - is proving what we're putting forward, which is nice to see."
The Stingrays U/16s will now look to complete the premiership double as they begin their finals campaign against the Football NSW Institute this Saturday at Valentine Sports Park.
Joining them in the finals are the Rays reserve-grade side, who booked their ticket after finishing the regular season in fourth position. They kick off their campaign on Saturday against NSW Spirit, also at Valentine Sports Park.
Spink, who also coaches the club's reserves, said he couldn't be more proud of his team's efforts in 2023.
"We've had some success in the past with the first-grade outfit. But in regard to having the depth of quality in seniors at the club, I don't think reserve grade has ever really been out of the bottom three," he said.
"For reserve grade to make finals, and to have first grade in the first half of the table at the same time while one of our youth teams finish first, it really shows that depth that we've started to create at the club in regards to quality and the young talent coming through. We have a lot of young girls in that reserve-grade side who are still under-18s eligible, so they're really doing the job for us.
"It's been an amazing time to do it. I think the players - not just at our club but every club - have grabbed onto the atmosphere that has been created around the World Cup in our country. We've the players that have come from our club, they've really grabbed onto that feeling with both hands and brought that passion into the team environment."