Newcastle’s Wheeler And Van Egmond Book Ticket To Paris With Matildas

                   The Matildas training last month | Image: Courtney Pedlar, Football Australia.

It took Newcastle’s Clare Wheeler just three minutes to make a match-defining impact off the bench for the Matildas in their friendly with China in Sydney last night.

Subbed on for fellow Novocastrian Emily van Egmond after halftime, the 26-year-old midfielder scored a career second international goal for Australia when she headed a free kick off the boot of Steph Catley into the back of the net at Accor Stadium.

Following a goalless first stanza, Wheeler’s strike shifted the momentum for the Aussie women with Hayley Raso sealing the 2 – nil final scoreline just eight minutes later.

The victory was a magnificent way to end to the two-match pre-Olympic Farewell Series against China, with 76,798 fans – a home attendance record for the Matildas – turning out to say bon voyage to the team before it heads to Paris in search of gold.

It capped off a remarkable 24 hours for Wheeler who had just been told she had been selected to make her Olympic debut at the Paris Games.

The former Adamstown Rosebud junior turned Everton star is one of four Olympic debutants named in the 18-player Australian women’s squad officially announced today, alongside Clare Hunt, Kaitlyn Torpey and World Cup hero Cortnee Vine.

When asked how she was feeling following the announcement, Wheeler said the news was still sinking in.

“I’m still just a bit in shock I think,” she said.

“Its always a privilege to represent Australia but the thought of going to an Olympics to represent Australia is something else and it has always been a dream”

“Its been a big 24 hours… but I’m just really appreciative to get to play here in Australia and breaking records with another sell-out crowd and now I’m off to an Olympics.”

Head Coach Tony Gustavsson opted for plenty of experience as well, with fellow Novocastrian Emily van Egmond making history as one of eight Australian footballers set to compete at a record third Olympics.

“A lot of us have obviously had the privilege to grow up together and to be here with Steph [Catley] with her third, and a few of the other girls who have experienced it as well its just an amazing achievement and I think from a personal level everyone here can be proud.”

Joining vice-captain van Egmond in that elite club is skipper Steph Catley, Mackenzie Arnold, Ellie Carpenter, Caitlin Foord, Alanna Kennedy, Clare Polkinghorne and Tameka Yallop.

Lining up for their second Games will be strike weapon Mary Fowler, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Katrina Gorry, Michelle Heyman, Teagan Micah, and Hayley Raso.

Sharn Freier, Charlotte Grant, Courtney Nevin and Lydia Williams have been named as the travelling reserves, able to be called up onto the Australian Olympic Team as replacements in case of injury or withdrawal.

Gustavsson said with so many quality players competing fiercely for limited spots it had been an extremely challenging selection process.

“It has been a methodical process over the past couple of years to reach to this point, and each of the players selected bring unique and beneficial qualities to our team that will be vital for our Paris 2024 campaign,” he said.

“I would like to congratulate all the players selected and the teammates, coaches, family and friends that have brought them to this moment. I know that this team will give everything for the coat of arms and will represent Australia to the best of their ability in the true Aussie way.”

The Matildas enter Paris off the back of Australia’s best-ever finish in Olympic football with fourth in Tokyo.

Drawn in a pool with former gold medallists USA and Germany along with Zambia, the team will open their campaign the day before the Opening ceremony, 25 July, against Germany in Marseille.