This documentary series shines a light on Sydney FC’s W-League stars and the push for equality in football

A new documentary series gives voice to the incredible female athletes behind the Sydney FC Women’s League as they rise to the challenges of professional sport while fighting for greater equality.

Sport is, in many ways, the scene of a Shakespearean tragedy. From towering highs and triumphs over adversity, to crushing lows and defeat in front of tens of hundreds of adoring fans, the wave of sporting success is breaking as quickly as it rises in sight. But that’s why the sport is so powerful; a true testament to the human spirit and its ability to overcome any challenge thrown its way, whether it’s navigating the physical side of the game or the mental obstacles that simply come with the territory.

For the women of Sydney FC, widely regarded as Australia’s most famous football club, this nature of the sport is all too familiar. The women’s team was founded before the inaugural W-League season in 2008 and has since qualified for every final series, winning four Premiership titles and three league titles. It’s a club that boasts some of the biggest names in the sport, with Australian golden girl Sam Kerr signing in 2012 where she scored 13 goals in 24 appearances for the Sky Blues. Even American legend and two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe played for the club during a brief stint in 2011, while a host of Matildas stars like Alanna Kennedy, Caitlin Ford and Chloe Logarzo dressed in the famous uniform.

Given the accolades and achievements that have come to light at the club, it seems only fitting that a new documentary series will shed light on the club’s most transformational year in its long history. Reported by Anthony LaPaglia, Sky blue offers an incredibly intimate insight into the nature of professional football, giving fans access to players on and off the pitch. The series begins after the 2021 season, which saw the men’s and women’s teams lose to rivals Melbourne. Now on the road to redemption, they give everything in training and competition to come back stronger than before.

It also presents a watershed moment for women’s football as a whole and with Sky blue giving access to both men’s and women’s teams, the differences between the two pairs are highlighted, including the fact that women only compete on semi-professional pay despite the high expectations and pressures placed on them, while the men are fully professional. It’s something that seems at odds with the current landscape of women’s football, which has seen the Matildas fight comprehensively for gender equality in sport, to achieve a historic collective bargaining agreement that has closed the gap. salary between the Australian national teams, the Socceroos and Mathilde. One can only hope that this level of equality will be achieved for sport at all levels.

With the four-part series airing weekly on Paramount+ starting Thursday, September 29, it’s sure to grab some attention. We sat down with one of the stars of Sky blueand incomparable winger Cortnee Vine to learn more about the mental and physical challenges of professional sport, the pressure that comes with playing for a club with such a historic legacy in the world of football, and the breakthroughs that women in the sport are doing to ensure that the future is full of equal opportunities.

women’s health: What was your first football memory and who introduced you to it?

Cortnee Vine: I would say my earliest memory must have been when I was five watching my brother’s team and wanting to play with them! My dad loved football and played it when he was younger so I think that was a big influence on why I started playing but by far my biggest influence in everything I have done has always been because of my older brother!

When did you think it was something you could pursue professionally?

I never grew up thinking that I necessarily wanted to be a professional footballer, I loved playing all sports and participated in most of them throughout my schooling and also pursued the athletics until the age of 15. a women’s league. I’ve never played on a women’s team (other than reps), I’ve always played on men’s teams growing up. So I always thought that meant I would play on a boys team forever, do the A-League Men’s and the Socceroos for international duties [laughs].

Courtesy of FC Sydney

Given its long history and collection of silverware, what does it mean to represent Sydney FC?

Sydney FC is such a successful club. I’ve been in the league for a while now and throughout my experience Sydney FC have always held the highest standard. Playing for a club that is still pushing for the premiership and the top four in the league has made me the player I am today. I wouldn’t be where I am doing what I do without Sydney FC holding me to such high standards. It’s so important to keep growing and challenging yourself as an athlete and that’s what Sydney FC is all about.

The documentary series opens after the heartbreak of the 2021 season which saw Sydney FC fall to rivals Melbourne Victory in the final. As a team, how do you pull yourself together after a defeat and stay positive?

Losing silverware is always devastating in sports. Losing to the same team two years in a row hurts even more. What’s so great about the Sydney FC team we have is how close we all are. How much we all want to achieve the same common goal. We all surround and support each other in every practice and game. Having a team as close as ours makes it much easier to come back from a defeat, because we all want the same thing for the next game, which is to win.

What are some of the challenges that come with being a professional soccer player, both physically and mentally?

Being a professional soccer player certainly has its ups and downs. Physically it can be tough. Injuries happen (I’ve had my share of them) that can stop the progress of your fitness and strength, and then there’s the mental game, which I think is the most important aspect. I am still learning how to strengthen these two areas.

Courtesy of FC Sydney

The documentary series also gives insight into the differences between the men’s and women’s team, especially when it comes to the pay gap. What is the impact of a women’s team with a semi-professional salary on the players and the team as a whole?

This impacts us massively. Knowing that right now the best league you can play in Australia is ‘semi-professional’, this means you can’t just focus on being a 24/7 athlete. 7. You need another job to be able to live, pay rent and buy food because we don’t earn enough.

I think being “semi-professional” doesn’t help with your own identity. Are you a full-time professional athlete? Are you a full time student? Are you a full-time employee in a company? When people ask what do you do for work? My first thought, and I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of girls, is not ‘I’m a professional footballer’. Which is just shocking.

cortnee vine

The women’s league has lost so much talent because of the pay gap. Women have to let go of their passion to play football professionally and consider their future career far too soon.

When it comes to soccer, the women’s game has grown tremendously and is now attracting media attention and greater promotion with some of the sport’s best athletes. With this increased awareness comes increased expectations, how do these pressures affect you as a player? Are you aware of this when you go out on the field?

I think it’s great that women’s football is starting to demand more attention and media attention as women’s football develops.

What do you hope audiences take away from Sky Blue and what do you most expect them to see?

I hope the public will truly grasp the friendships and fun of our team at Sydney FC, even though there is a huge pay gap, how excited and passionate we all are. I can’t wait for them to experience the emotions of our semi-final!

Sky blue is now available to watch on Paramount+ where a new episode is released every week.

Robert M. Larson