Sarah Walsh got grilled by a couple of her biggest fans, below is the question and answer session.
Ever wondered how Sarah Walsh earnt the nickname ‘Stinger-, who her best prank accomplice is, or how she came to be the ‘zinc warrior-? Girls FC set super fans Dani and Meshelle the task of interviewing the Westfield Matildas striker (who also happens to be Dani-s favourite player).
If you weren't a footballer, what sport would you be representing Australia in?
Probably hurdling. Not many people know this but as a child, I used to race against Jana Pitman in the 60m hurdles. Would you believe I actually used to beat her? That was way back, though. And then she grew and I didn-t, ha ha! I tried my hand at netball for a while. Played centre, my height came into play again. Hockey? Although I-m not sure it-s a good idea to have a stick in your hand when you miss a goal.
You've had some pretty crazy and cool hairdos in the past. Which one has been your favourite?
I think it was around 2006 or 2007 when I cut my ponytail off and dyed my hair blonde. It was pretty short too! I don't think I'd go blonde again, though.
You-re a bit of legend with your pranks. What's the best ever prank you've pulled?
The April Fool-s joke for sure! Where we fooled the girls into thinking that Tommy (Sermanni) was leaving the team right before the World Cup last year. It kind of backfired, actually. There were about five or six girls who cried. It got a bit out of hand. Still, it was probably the most strategic prank.
Playing with legends like Cheryl Salisbury, Joey Peters, and Di Alagich, you were the young rookie. How did these awesome role models influence you in how you now act as a senior player towards the current young line-up of Westfield Matildas?
That's a great question! It kind of all happened very quickly—them leaving. When they were still around I felt like a youngster. I actually found it a bit challenging once they left—sort of being thrust into this new senior role—but I guess I now see myself as someone that kind of works behind the scenes with the younger players. I don-t see myself as a leader, but the way I play lifts the others. And if I notice any of the younger ones looking a bit nervous or struggling with their game, I usually go over and have a quiet word with them and give them some encouragement.
I remember for one of my most nerve-wrecking games for the Matildas vs Mexico. We were in front of 40,000 or 50,000 screaming fans in Mexico. I was really nervous and Di Alagich came over to me and told me I was one of the best strikers here and in Australia and that I just needed to get out there and enjoy it. It made such a difference—she just took this weight off my shoulders. I went out there and scored two goals. I-ve said the same thing a couple of times to Caitlin, etc. You tell them that if you stuff up, it-s ok—you-ve got 10 players behind you. Not the same for defenders, ha ha
Walshy, what's with all the zinc?
Sun protection! My skin is really sensitive and my dad-s had skin cancers cut off his nose. I have exact same skin as him. So yeah, it is purely for some sun protection.
But Walshy, in some of your earlier playing days in the US you would often play in a face full of zinc! Sun protection or a bit of a statement?
Ha ha! Truly for sun protection, but then again, I-m not going to lie. There are times when I-ve looked in the mirror and gone: that-s too much. Have you ever worn zinc before? It-s not like sunscreen, so when you put that much on [indicates a tiny amount], it-ll spread forever.
So what you're saying is that you're still trying to get the ratio of zinc to skin down pat?
Yes! I've actually sent some zinc over to the US girls and they-re all wearing it now.
How important are the fans to the players?
Very, very important! I-ll speak for myself, but we put in all this work and obviously we have a love for the game. For fans to turn up, it means a lot to the players. I know for a fact that a lot of players are really motivated and boosted by their fans and the crowds at their games. They actually play better in front of their fans! Also, social media has taken it to another level. It has provided a great link between the players and their fans so there's definitely a great relationship there.
What, in your opinion, is the main reason why women don't commonly support other women in sport as much as they do men-s sports?
I think we're just a product of our media and what the media feeds us. Consumerism of male sports is high because that's what the media shows ... so that's what both men and women will probably follow. I can understand it in a way, because I grew up with rugby league and it was what I was exposed to as a kid. Hopefully that will change though with more media coverage of female athletes.
Did you find it difficult to break into football in a male-dominated environment?
No, not at all. Really, when I was a kid I was just a young kid. I only cared about playing. My parents would have been the ones to deal with that, but I was better than the boys were anyway ? I played with the boys until I was about 14. I actually ended up playing an extra year with them because I was good enough to continue to play with the boys- league.
So no, I didn't concern myself too much with the politics as a child but probably started to notice the issues a little bit more as an older teenager after I was split into the women-s league and the team didn-t play games—I think was difficult, because I probably couldn-t understand why. Thankfully that-s just not around any more. Girls just have so many options.
What is it that drives you to devote so much of your life to football?
As corny as it sounds, I just love it. You don-t get out of bed at 5am for the money, and you-ll know the athletes who do. It-s really hard to sustain that training and go through all that if you don-t love it.
I was personally lucky enough to see your very first cap for the Westfield Matildas at the Australia Cup back in 2004 at QSAC stadium in Queensland. Can you describe how it felt to put on the green and gold for the first time?
I was 21 years old at the time and all my family were there and it was such a huge deal. Such different times back then. Adrian was our coach and we were all out to prove ourselves to him. I scored my first goal that night and even though technically it wasn't that great, I was so relieved and excited to have scored it in my first Westfield Matildas game. I-d actually made the Australian team at 15, then battled all those injuries. So it was a huge deal, especially as I-d been told I wouldn-t/shouldn-t play again.
Pali Blues or Boston Breakers?
Boston Breakers. I never played for Pali Blues. I signed for them, but then broke my leg.
USA or Australia?
You're kidding, right?! Australia forever.
Favourite stadium to play in?
Probably Sydney Football Stadium. I broke my leg there, but I love that stadium.
Favourite team to play?
Do you know no one-s ever asked me that before? Japan. A very clean and friendly game. Tough game.
Other than ‘Walshy-, any other favourite nicknames?
‘Stinger-. Friends in Cronulla dared me to go into the water after a whole bunch of stingers had been sighted. Two friends who had wetsuits on and had been surfing further up assured me that they had been in all day, they hadn-t been stung ... you know where this is going. I go in, I-m frolicking around, the next bit of whitewash that comes in, a stinger gets stuck on my leg. I ran across the beach and that was it. I had a massive welt here [points to quad]. We went out that night and I had jeans on and my jeans made it worse. I had to go to hospital to get all this cream on it. It was a welt like that [indicates that it was enormous]. So, ‘Stinger-.
What does life after football look like for Walshy? Which we know is a long, long, long, long, long way away!
Ha! I'm actually completing my business degree in marketing, so hopefully I'll work for a company like Nike or Coca Cola. I won-t coach—I think you either have it in you to coach or you don't and I don-t. I want to give back to football, but it will be in some other way. I-m currently working with the FFA, so hopefully that will continue too.