From Cairns to the World Cup: How Mary Fowler became the youngest Matildas player.

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As the youngest player on the Matildas team and one of its brightest talents, it's no wonder Mary Fowler is on every soccer fan's radar right now. That, and the stellar performance the 20-year-old put on during the victory against Denmark, which helped the Matildas get through to the quarter-finals!

Fowler spent three seasons with French side Montpellier before signing a four-year deal with Manchester City in June 2022 – becoming one of the most expensive transfers in the process.

But the skilled striker has history with the Matildas, having already played 40 times with the Aussie girls.

How did she get here?

One of five children, and born to an Irish father and a Papua New Guinean mother, Fowler could have played for both Ireland and Papua New Guinea in the World Cup, but chose to play for her country of birth. 

The "Fowler Five" grew up in Cairns and with no televisions in the house to keep them occupied, the kids turned to outdoor activities, and that's where Fowler's love of soccer was born. 

Showing great skill and promise from an early age, Fowler played in the NSW Women's National Premier League as a young teen, before signing with Adelaide United in the W-League. She went on to make her international debut at just 15, competing with the Matildas against Brazil at the 2018 Tournament of Nations. 

Next came a spot on the FIFA Women's World Cup and then the big one – the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which Fowler describes as "the only dream I had as a kid".


But as ambitious as Fowler was, the hype around her being "the next Sam Kerr" inevitably put more pressure on her than she anticipated. 

“When you're a little kid who has done nothing yet, but you’re told you're the next big thing and you're being compared to all these great players, you think ahead,” Fowler said.

“I do remember saying to the media that I wanted to be the best in the world, but I think that made me feel like I couldn't do anything outside of football. I couldn’t have fun, because then I wouldn’t be staying on the path of becoming the greatest.”

What's the story behind her gloves?

Fowler started wearing black gloves during games for her Premier League side, with the temperatures much colder in Manchester than Australia. But while some have speculated that it's a sign the striker secretly wants a gig as a goalie, Fowler only recently confessed the real reason she dons the black gloves during her matches. 

"I haven't told anyone yet what (the reason is) – it's a bit silly," she told Optus Sport recently. “But I honestly just wear gloves because I get really fidgety. Usually, I train with a ring on, but if it’s cold, I wear gloves, and I can’t wear a ring in a match, so I usually wear gloves.”

Who is she away from the field?

Her Instagram page is pretty soccer heavy, with Fowler giving her followers glimpses of her training, games, and memories of her as a sports-mad kid. The soccer player also shows she's a real family girl, sharing special moments with her siblings and parents over the years. 


Fowler's former teachers and peers have been watching with pride as she plays for her country. Her Year 6 teacher, Marg Judd, is still in touch with Fowler's mother Nido, and remembers the Matildas player as a keen footballer and netballer, as well as an artist with "a gifted ability to draw".

"Mary didn't just get handed this – there was a lot of hard work that went in and continues to go in," Judd told ABC of Fowler's dedication.

The teacher also attests to Fowler's solid upbringing, calling her family a "very connected unit".

"After school, they'd be down on Trinity Beach kicking the soccer ball around and running around as a family," Judd recalls. 

Image: Instagram.


Stepping up for Sam.

Sam Kerr's calf injury undoubtedly put more pressure on other players to step up, but young Fowler has been willing and ready to do her country proud. 

"It’s an amazing opportunity, and one that not many people get,” Fowler said of playing in the World Cup team.

“I’ve come in at a really fortunate time when we have a home World Cup, and we have a squad that’s so willing to fight for that win and fight for their country.

“I’m just enjoying being able to play with the older girls and learn from them, and then hopefully when I get chances like this, I’m able to fill the shoes of whoever was there before me.”

Feature image: Getty.

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