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Homegrown World Cup star van Egmond buoyed by school spirit

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When homegrown Matildas star Emily van Egmond runs onto Stadium Australia on Wednesday night, she’ll have a special cheer squad barracking for her.

Yes, the entire country will be in the 30-year-old’s corner, along with her talented team-mates when they tackle England in the semi-final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup on 16 August.

But, the former Dudley Redhead United FC junior has another supportive ace up her sleeve… the staff and hundreds of students at Glendore Public School in Maryland.

Why? Because Emily’s mother, Annette, is the much-loved principal at the educational institution.

Glendore Public School principal Annette van Egmond with her excited students ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final. Photo: Rod Thompson

The school community, from Kindergarten to Year 6, threw its support behind the midfielder this week, dressing up in green and gold in honour of the national squad – and their favourite player – as it chases one more piece of history.

And, they probably earned plenty of merit points from Mrs van Egmond.

“The way everyone’s embraced the Matildas, from kids to adults, has been fantastic,” she said.

“In fact, I can’t even think of a word to describe it.

“I don’t imagine anyone connected to the team ever thought that it would be as big as it is either.

“It’s just brilliant to see the mass support across the country.

“Even externally, if you have a look on social media, you’ve got people in America cheering for the Aussies.

“All over the world, they want the underdogs to win… it’s just indescribable.”

Knowing her daughter is a key member of the squad, which attracted Australian television’s highest-ever rating at the weekend thanks to the thrilling penalty shootout with France, doesn’t alleviate the excitement either.

“I’m feeling quite calm… at the moment,” Mrs van Egmond said.

“No doubt, we’ll be very nervous tomorrow.

“So, for the time being, I’m just riding the wave and we will see how things pan out.

“I’ve had the past month off, following Emily and the side around Australia.

“We’ve enjoyed a fair bit of contact, too.

“Thankfully, it’s been a very relaxed campaign for them in terms of the staff, allowing them access to family, which has been great for the girls.

“It’s certainly a long journey, especially leading up to the World Cup.

“And, then, the last four-and-a-bit weeks, we’ve seen quite a lot of her, which has been lovely.”

Matildas Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley, Emily van Egmond, Hayley Raso, Sam Kerr, Mackenzie Arnold and Alanna Kennedy posing with the Cup of Nations trophy. Photo: Rachel Bach/By The White Line

Emily began playing football at the age of five, taking her twin brother’s place in a local team that their father, Newcastle Jets A-League Women’s coach and ex- Socceroo Gary van Egmond, had signed him up for.

She debuted for the Matildas at just 16 in 2010 and attended the FIFA Women’s World Cup the following season in Germany.

The gifted Novocastrian’s competed professionally since 2009, gaining a wealth of experience over the course of her career, having played in Australia, Denmark, Germany, England and, most recently, in America, where she takes the field for San Diego Wave in the National Women’s Soccer League.

“It’s hard to believe this is her fourth World Cup,” Mrs van Egmond said.

“Where have the years gone?

“I remember Emily as a little girl who was fiercely competitive from the word go… no matter what she did.

“However, I think the realisation (for us) that there was potentially something bigger than your Saturday club football or netball or nippers or whatever it was, because our kids competed in everything, was the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

“My husband Gary and I went and watched the Matildas play there.

“To be honest, I didn’t even know anything about them until that point.

“We had front row seats, watching them play, and I was really inspired by them back then.

“That’s when we sort of realised Emily’s [football] talent was more than just your regular play-with-your-friends on the weekends.

“And, to her credit, she’s worked hard to get where she is.”

Photo: Rod Thompson

Even though Mrs van Egmond noticed a change in the Matildas as they embarked on their World Cup charge, compared to previous tilts, she wasn’t at all surprised by their results.

“I really can’t put my finger on that,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.

“But, I personally believe it’s the self-belief among the entire playing group.

“They’re a really close group of friends as well as competitors; for instance, Emily and Sam Kerr have known each other since they were 17.

“So, they’ve had that very strong core group for a significant number of years.

“Now, it’s coupled up with brilliant youngsters, such as Kyra Cooney-Cross, Mary Fowler, Cortnee Vine and Clare Hunt, to name a handful.

“It’s energised them – and it’s given the Matildas a different edge.

“It’s also presented the opposition something different to think about.

“Overall, we’re just incredibly proud of all the girls… their commitment, dedication, sportsmanship and fierce competitiveness.

“I can’t wait for the remaining couple of games.”

Photo: Rod Thompson

And, what words of wisdom will Mrs van Egmond impart on Emily before kick-off?

“The last thing we always say to her is: Any opportunity you get [to represent Australia], go out and have fun,” she said.

“They know what they need to do; they’re professionals.

“They’ve been training their entire lives for this moment.

“So, that’s for all of the girls, but at the heart of it, if they’re not enjoying it, they’re not going to perform.

“That’s always our last message to her.

“She knows we’re there to support her… we’ve got the entire family and a group of friends heading down to Sydney.

“It’s just fabulous.

“No matter the result, they are all winners in our eyes.

“The worst they can do is Top 4 (in the world).

“And, no one can ever take that away from them.

“It’s probably an achievement beyond anyone’s dreams going back 10 years or so.”

The match starts from 8pm.

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