We catch up with Matildas star Steph Catley to talk Olympics, inspiration, and her dog Bentley.
Erin Byrnes

15 Jul 2016 - 8:30 AM  UPDATED 15 Jul 2016 - 8:30 AM

We’ve seen a lot of golfers and tennis players withdraw from Rio, and one of the big factors is that it’s not the pinnacle of their sport. Football is the same – the World Cup is thought of as the holy grail. What would mean more to you, an Olympic gold medal or a World Cup trophy?

I don't see either as more important than the other. They are both major tournaments where all of the best teams in the world come to compete and at the end of the tournament there's an Olympic gold medal up for grabs or a world cup trophy, to me they weigh the same amount of importance.

Is this the best Matildas team ever assembled?
For the first time in 12 years a Matildas squad has been selected for an Olympic Games. The 18 player roster is the strongest Australia has produced in this generation.

As a spectator, what’s your favourite Olympic moment?

Growing up I always loved watching the swimming and I remember watching Ian Thorpe in the 2000 Olympics, winning gold medals and bringing the men's relay team home to gold. He was so powerful and confident and he had my whole family up and cheering, willing him to victory.

What’s been your career highlight to date?

Qualifying for the Olympics after playing 5 games in 10 days. The feeling of team unity throughout such a grueling campaign was so strong and we were all so focused on qualifying that when that final whistle went against DPR Korea and we had qualified, it was pure joy.

What inspires you?

So many different things inspire me. I admire different traits that different people possess and am inspired to grow into similar traits within myself. My brother inspires me in the way that he keeps life in perspective and how he values modesty and hard work above anything else.

I have also always idolised Nick Riewoldt as an athlete, leader and person. On the field, he's fearless, competitive, a leader and an incredible teammate. Off the field, he's modest, polite, well spoken and generous.

You’re studying to be a primary school teacher. How do you balance that with football?

I study through Swinburne University Online and am able to take my classes whilst playing professionally overseas for the Orlando Pride. It can sometimes be very difficult to motivate myself to log in and do all of the readings and get the work done with no one really pushing me.

That self motivation is a trait I feel I have developed throughout my football career, pushing through extra individual running and technical sessions in the pouring rain or the scorching heat with no one there to make sure I do it.

I also find that studying takes my mind off football when I don't want to be thinking about it and helps me to put life into perspective.

How soon are we to a time when female footballers can be fully professional?

I don't think we're too far from it. In the US, the majority of their national team girls are fully professional. They have many individual sponsors and are campaigning for equal pay to their male counterparts. In Australia, the W-League has a long way to go before it can be considered professional.

I think if our national team continues to improve and challenge with some of the best countries in the world, more of the best players will want to come and play in our league.

I started in the W-League when I was 15 and I was lucky enough to play alongside Jess Fishlock from a young age. She is world class in every aspect of her game on and off the field and to be able to watch her and learn from her motivated me to be just as good. Hopefully, that process can continue in the W-League.

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What do you miss most when you’re overseas/away from Australia?

My dog, Bentley. He's a three year old Corgi and I miss him so much when I'm away. I also miss Melbourne in general, specifically the coffee. And my family of course!  

Who’s the best/worst roommate to have on tour?

Best roommate is my current roomie, Lydia Williams. We have been roomies for a while now and I have zero complaints about her. We're the same amount of messy / clean, she doesn't snore, she will randomly bring me presents or coffee, she's constantly making me laugh and is always there for me no matter what.

What are three things you always take with you?

I always take a diary that my first ever football coach gave to me years ago before he passed away. In it, I write my goals, quotes and keep other motivational notes that I've collected throughout the years.

I take my iPad for iBooks and Netflix. And for my birthday this year Lydia bought me a small blanket that has a cartoon drawing of my dog Bentley on it, I never travel without it!

The team is obviously quite close – we even wrote a feature about it. How do you manage to stay so tight knit when you’re all playing in different competitions over the world, and only come together for camps and tournaments?

That is a challenge that we balance differently every time a new tournament comes around. In the lead up to the World Cup, we were all together. Olympic qualifiers, we had a few players missing here and there and now with the Olympics, most of our squad were playing in different countries.

We have an online system that allows us to watch video from what the girls are doing in camp and clips of ourselves with an analysis from Staj. So when we're overseas, we continue to think about our national team roles. Now, we have a long month of training before our first Olympic game against Canada to make sure we're all on the same page.

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