As football fever sweeps the nation following the kick-off of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, we shine a spotlight on some of the remarkable ACT women contributing in one way or another to the tournament’s organisation and execution.
Meet some of Canberra’s incredible women involved in the sport.
Mikaela Danvers, PLAY ON exhibition lead
A senior lecturer in design at the University of Canberra, Mikaela – along with fellow Faculty of Arts and Design lecturers Ashley Harrison and Stephanie Trimble – is the academic lead for the PLAY ON: Grassroots to Glory exhibition.
Currently being hosted at the University of Canberra, in partnership with Capital Football and the ACT Government, the exhibition celebrates the triumphs and history of women’s football in Canberra. Led by Mikaela, Ashley and Stephanie, it was curated and co-designed by students.
Mikaela says “a simple love of the game” prompted her to pursue the exhibition.
“I’ve been a player for almost 30 years, but am a fairly new football fan,” Mikaela says.
“Once I started following games and players more closely, and learned their stories, I began to understand fandom better and became a fan myself. I realised it’s knowing people’s stories that develops engagement, and knew that telling the stories of past, current and emerging players would garner significant interest in our community.”
Connecting Canberrans with the World Cup is a priority for Mikaela, and something she knows the PLAY ON exhibition can do.
She also knows how passionate the ACT football community is about getting behind the tournament.
“This is the largest participation team sport in Australia, with over 35,000 football players across Canberra,” she says.
“Several of the current Matildas star players have played at one time or another with Canberra United. With no games being hosted in Australia’s capital city, it was important to have something for the Canberra soccer community to connect with.”
Dr Catherine Ordway, Sports Integrity Research Lead and Associate Professor in Sports Management at the University of Canberra
Catherine has written and contributed to a plethora of publications and research papers relevant to the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and women’s sport more widely.
Ahead of the 2023 tournament, she’s worked with key players in the women’s football and sporting scene including Moya Dodd AO, Heather Reid AM, Dr Kasey Symons and Danielle Warby, to provide an insight into the gender equity aspects of the sport.
The group will present a series of papers and panel discussions throughout July and August to share its research.
“There is no time like the present to share the important research and studies on gender equity in sport taking place all over the world, in order to combat the challenges we face,” Dr Ordway says.
“The World Cup being held here in Australia is creating opportunities to not only amplify this important work, but to celebrate how far we’ve already come in the space.”
Allyson Flynn, Referee Operations Manager
Taking a year off from her role as a lecturer in physiotherapy at the University of Canberra – and her PhD studies at UC in physiotherapy services for people with Parkinson’s Disease – Allyson is playing an integral role within the tournament.
She’s the referee operations manager for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup – coordinating and organising all the referees in the lead-up to, and throughout the tournament.
Speaking to UnCover last year, Allyson said the competition in Australia and New Zealand was a boost to women’s football.
“I’ve seen women’s football change and grow so much. To see the opportunities that are available to women now, and to female match officials – it’s great,” Allyson said.
“To think that we’re going to see stadiums full of people watching women play football this year is an amazing feeling, and to be a small part of that exponential growth has been fantastic.”
It’s not the first time Allyson has made such an important contribution to the game – she refereed at the 2016 Rio Olympics and was involved in the women’s world cups in Germany in 2011 and Canada in 2015.
“I think it will create so many more opportunities, not only for participation in women’s football, but for officiating, coaching, and working in administration as well.”
Coinciding with the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, ‘Play On: Grassroots to Glory’ chronicles the full history of women’s football in the Canberra region – from its humble beginnings to local teams in Canberra and the glory on the global pitch. For more information, visit the PLAY ON website.