The Olympic qualifier series in Perth is helping build on the winter’s success and turning the players into household names

About 25 young girls were sitting cross legged on the grass at Perth Soccer Club on Monday afternoon, hardly able to keep still with the excitement of being coached by Matildas staff and being filmed for the evening news. They faced away from the stands, Football Australia’s technical director, Rae Dower, desperately trying to hold their attention. Because creeping up behind them were Sam Kerr, Lydia Williams and Charli Grant. The girls, incapable of keeping their gaze forward, slowly let out gasps and squeals as they realised the surprise. And sure enough, once most of them had turned around, Dower gave up and the high-pitched screaming ensued.

Everyone in the vicinity smiled at their unadulterated joy. Grant and Williams grinned right back at them, Kerr was a little more reserved. No doubt there would have still been screams had this been taking place before the Women’s World Cup. But it was undeniable that the Matildas effect flowing from that tournament had amplified them as the national team play their third and final Olympic qualifying match against Chinese Taipei in the Western Australian capital on Wednesday night.

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