Former Matildas vice-captain Joey Peters believes defender Steph Catley holds the power to shape women’s football.
Peters earned 110 caps for Australia, including three World Cups and the 2004 Athens Olympics.
In a 13 year career starting in 1996, Peters did the hard yards when women’s football didn't have the profile it has today and players had to pay to play the game.
Now there has been a shift of interest towards the women’s game.
In the past 18 months,the Matildas made the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup, progressed through the Olympic Qualifiers undefeated and went on to reach the knockout stage in Rio.
The Matildas now have a big following on social media and Catley is one of the most recognised players alongside Lisa De Vanna and Kyah Simon.
"It’s just a fantastic message that any role model can share with any young player – the love of the game and the purity of it"
Now Peters believes there is a big role for Catley to promote the game.
“We need to have a deliberate marketable face for our game and Steph Catley is a personality, there couldn’t be anyone better in terms of her role model status,” Peters told FourFourTwo.
“I hope she will have a big influence, firstly that responsibility when you become the face of the game, it is important to be the face, so that people can automatically engage with a personality rather than just the Matildas.
“I knew of her when she was coming through in the Young Matildas, but what I know of her now, last season when it came to football season and they promoted people to play I remember her saying ‘I just love playing football for the fun of it, I just love it’.
“I think that is the most important thing, it’s just a fantastic message that any role model can share with any young player – the love of the game and the purity of it.
“For me it’s a big tick and I hope we can promote her more it’s very important from our marketing perspective that we have that, they couldn’t have picked anyone better with Steph.”
In the 2016 Rio Olympics campaign, current co-captain De Vanna was the only survivor from the squad which competed in the Matildas’ last tournament in Athens in 2004.
De Vanna will be regarded as one of the all-time greats of women’s football with a CV full of accolades - three W-League Championships with Brisbane Roar, Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City, three World Cup appearances, two Olympics campaigns and club stints in Sweden, England and United States.
Peters said De Vanna was a prime example of how much the women’s game had developed.
“We talk about the face of our game and Lisa has brought a real attraction to our game in terms of how she plays the game on the field,” she said.
“It has been wonderful to see her grow as a person as well - a recent photo she had on Instagram with her at the 2004 Olympics and then her at these Olympics and I just thought ‘wow’... just for her personally and I think it showed me the growth of the women’s game in general.
“I’m big on protecting young players, so they have longevity in their career, to get the most out of them in their prime as opposed to pushing in there too early and that photo said it all with me, with Lisa.
“Which players would you prefer, the young Lisa or the older one, which was very confident, professional and she did have belief. That was a very powerful statement for Lisa and also for the game and where the game came from.
“It’s really sad it’s taken this long, but hopefully now it will snowball"
“She has been an excitement machine which I think it’s a great example of what our sport is about as well, there’s excitement, unpredictability, amazing skill and confidence. I’m really pleased I was able to play alongside her for many years and see her grow.”
City broke records last season being the first W-League team to win all their regular season games as they won the Championship.
Peters said the W-League needed to improve in terms of coverage and marketing, with access to games required.
“The next stage is all games has to be televised, it was very difficult for my involvement last season even being a commentator, to bring expert analysis on the game, I couldn’t get access to seeing all the games,” she said.
“I’m hoping they do that pretty soon, it’s taken a while, the W-League is coming up to 10 years, it’s only really been probably because of City’s inclusion that all of a sudden other clubs are saying ‘oh, we’ll actually have to invest’ and we can actually see a benefit.
“It’s really sad it’s taken this long, but hopefully now and with the rush from other women’s sport it will be a big snowball now and it will build a massive momentum because it’s been disregarded for far too long.”