‘We’re winners, no matter what’: Sam Kerr reflects on the best month of her life

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Sam Kerr is used to people stopping her in the street. It happens all the time. Usually, they want something from her – a selfie, maybe an autograph. Not this time.

Not on Friday, as she and Matildas teammate Mackenzie Arnold tried to walk through Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall.

“Everyone was just saying, ‘Thank you.’ Not ‘well done’, like they normally do, or ‘great goal.’ Just ‘Thank you,’” she said.

“And me and Macca, we got in the cab on the way home we were laughing because we were like, ‘That was so awkward.’ Everyone was just coming around us in the middle of Queen Street Mall, and we just went, ‘Wow, that was amazing’.”

The World Cup is almost over. Australia’s campaign finishes on Saturday evening with a third-placed play-off against Sweden – and while everyone seems ready to return to their normal lives, nobody really wants this magical ride to end.

As the Matildas trained for the final time on Friday, their last one together for the tournament, there was a heavy sense of melancholy. “Last training session, last prehab together,” Kerr said, smiling. “It feels a bit sad that it’s over.”

Like everyone else, Sam Kerr is sad the World Cup is almost over.Credit: Getty

This thing, whatever it is, that they’ve been lucky enough to share with each other and the rest of the country for the past month – very soon, it will be gone. Come Sunday, it will be just be a memory.

But what a memory to have.

“This has probably been the most amazing four weeks of our careers,” Kerr said.

“Not only what has happened on the pitch, but what has happened off the pitch has been amazing. When we first started at this World Cup, we could have never dreamed that this would happen, the way the country’s got behind us, the way we’ve been playing.

Sam Kerr with coach Tony Gustavsson and assistant Mel Andreatta on Friday.Credit: Getty

“Of course we want to win the bronze medal tomorrow, but that feeling … we’re winners, no matter what – it’s down to the fans. They have created that. They have made us feel like we have done something amazing for them.

“We’ve talked about this before the World Cup, that we want to leave a legacy, have this moment talked about for 10, 20 years. We have already done that. It really feels like we have brought the nation together over football. Some people might have said we were crazy if we had said this was gonna happen a year ago.”

For Kerr, in particular, this has been some sort of whirlwind. In so many ways, it felt like this tournament was built for her – then she strained her calf on the day before Australia’s opening game. There were times she had questioned whether she’d get on the field at all – but even if she missed the whole thing, she said it still would have felt like the peak of her career, just to be a part of it.

Of course, not only did she get on the field, she scored arguably the goal of the tournament against England – a stunning individual run and long-distance drive that will be remembered as probably the best scored by an Australian at a World Cup.

When asked whether that goal was her “Cathy Freeman moment”, Kerr shrugged and left it for others to judge.

“It didn’t really come to much,” she said.

“But this team … I’ve grown up with these girls, so I’ve always been in awe of them, and I think Australia just really caught onto [their] down-to-earth nature.

“No one’s too big for their boots. We all just work hard. We work for each other. Whenever I think of the great Australian athletes, that’s what I think of. Those nights when I used to stay up and watch Lleyton Hewitt at Wimbledon … that’s what Australians love. That’s what this team is all about. We just have that Aussie spirit that you can’t really tell people about unless you see it.

“You know what it is – Lleyton Hewitt, Cathy Freeman, all those athletes that you just want to get behind because of what they do and what they give to the country.”

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